CofC Chair in Computer Science Recognized for Lifetime Service

For Renee McCauleyprofessor and president of the Department of Computer Science, having a passion for computer science education extends well beyond the classroom. That is one of the reasons why she is so dedicated member and volunteer of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the flagship organization for IT professionals worldwide.

McCauley has contributed significantly to ACM’s Special Interest Group in Computer Science Education (SIGCSE), an international community consisting of thousands of educators, and will be recognized for her service at ACM’s 54th Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education. Computing in March 2023, when she will officially receive the 2023 SIGCSE Award for Lifetime Service to the Computer Science Education Community. The award honors an individual who has a long history of volunteer service to the computer science education community.

McCauley has been a member of ACM SIGCSE during his more than 30 years in the computing profession.. For her, attending the SIGCSE conferences is like going to the Sundance Film Festival, with glimpses of the stars!

“I remember seeing a textbook author across the room talking about teaching techniques; to me, he was a celebrity,” says McCauley, who notes that SIGCSE is a great place to find mentors. “Everyone is accessible at SIGCSE, which is not what you expect at an expert conference. It is a highly collegiate organization and a very welcoming and collaborative group.”

Renee McCauley

Renée McCauley, Head of the Department of Computer Science

McCauley’s positive SIGCSE experience led her to volunteer for various organizational positions over the years. In addition to co-chairing annual conferences, she was elected to the SIGCSE Board for 12 years: serving three-year terms as general board member, treasurer, president and immediate past president. Under his leadership, the SIGCSE organization grew in a number of ways, from membership to conference size to international presence, and introduced programs for educators at the K-12 level, as well as professional workshops for new teachers and department heads.

McCauley also held leadership positions with the parent organization, ACM, for six years. He co-edited a leading informatics education research journal for seven years and chaired or contributed to several international informatics curriculum committees. He also participated in the creation of the ACM Advances magazine, and served on numerous committees and panels at other national and international organizations, including the IEEE Computing Society (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), the National Science Foundation, and the Computing Research Association Committee on the Condition of the woman..

These are just a few highlights of McCauley’s professional footprint in the international computing community. She credits the university for giving her the freedom, opportunity and support when she needed it.

“I am grateful to the College for giving me the opportunity to balance my fellowships, research assignments, and community service to the international community,” says McCauley. “He has made my career so far very rewarding.”

Susan Rodger, Professor of Practice in the Department of Computer Science at Duke University, nominated McCauley for the lifetime service award, saying, “McCauley has led SIGCSE and the computer science education community in new directions and programs with great benefits for all”.

“I still enjoy volunteering professionally and have maintained an active research program with funding from NSF and many international collaborators,” says McCauley, who is the first faculty member to chair the university’s Department of Computer Science. “I review documents and grant proposals, and sit on professional committees. Currently, as chair of the computer science department, my focus is more local, particularly how I can help teachers succeed, including mentoring new teachers toward tenure and promotion or senior instruction. It is important to help guide teachers to ensure they are successful in the long term, as this is largely reflected in the quality of the students and professionals we produce (the next generation of computer scientists) and the impact this has on the society in general”.

“Winning the SIGCSE Lifetime Service Award is a remarkable honor, and Dr. McCauley truly deserves this distinction,” says sebastian van deldendean of the Faculty of Science, Mathematics and Engineering in college.“Not only is she an internationally renowned scholar and expert, but she is an outstanding department head who brings out the best in her colleagues, students and staff. I have the privilege of working with her and benefiting from her mentorship and friendship from her.”

On March 17, 2023, McCauley will officially receive the Lifetime Service Award and will speak at ACM’s 54th Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education in Toronto, Canada. She will talk about how she first got involved with SIGCSE; about how, year after year, she became more and more committed; and finally, about all the great people she met and who guided her. She hopes to encourage young colleagues to start participating and contributing in a similar way for years to come.

Now McCauley is the conference celebrity attendees expect to see.

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