Innovative Intelligence When Dr. Wei Chen received the 2010 IBM Faculty Award, the Tennessee State University computer science professor was puzzled over all the fuss about the honor. “I’m very behind the scenes,” Chen says. Still, it is the work in which Chen, her students and colleagues are engaged that helps historically Black TSU advance its efforts to emerge as an academic standout in computer science and engineering education and innovation. Her IBM award, for example, was for her work at TSU on “cloud computing,” a new way of gathering large amounts of data without first downloading and installing large files. “She has a lot to offer the students and the school,” says Dionne Bennett, the IMB client representative who works with Tennessee State. Adds Dr. Amir Gamshad, head of the computer science department at Tennessee State and the veteran academician who recruited Chen: “She’s priceless. An excellent researcher and an excellent teacher.” Gamshad, who has taught at TSU for some 30 years, says Chen is one of the best computer scientists he has encountered. Chen’s arrival at Tennessee State eight years ago was the byproduct of much luck and much work. Born in Shanghai, Chen grew up during China’s Cultural Revolution. During that time, the Chinese government was even less tolerant of free speech and ambitious academic pursuits at the nation’s colleges. By age 16, Chen worked in a lathe factory, a job she would have for some five years. In the factory, she became intrigued with the workings of machinery. By her 21st birthday, China resumed nationwide college exams for the first time in nearly a decade. Chen placed well and became a first-generation college student. Her talents were in math, although she embarked upon her college career hoping to become a writer. Her math skills won, however. After completing her undergraduate and master’s level work, she was selected to be among a small group of students awarded full doctoral degree fellowships by Japanese education authorities. She earned a Ph.D. in computer science at Osaka University where she remained for several years to begin teaching and research. It didn’t hurt that her mother and sister, a teacher at nearby Vanderbilt University, lived in Nashville when Gamshad came calling. “I was lucky,” says Chen, reflecting on her road to scholarship from factory work among the Chinese masses. Today, in addition to working on several advanced computer science projects, Chen teaches algorithms, artificial intelligence and formal language and helps other firstgeneration collegians at TSU. “I do like students and research,” says Chen, who hopes her work benefits her school and the larger community of minority- serving institutions. Despite working in some of the most advanced areas of computer science and earning praise from her peers for staying on the cutting edge in her field, Chen prides herself on her personal penchant for simplicity. She has no interest in having an iPhone, with all of its razzle dazzle applications. “I only use the basic functions in everything,” she says. — Reginald Stuart Radio For Thought Does the mention of philosophy professors conjure up images of esoteric eggheads? If so, you might think again. Two California philosophy professors have mused and opined on the radio airwaves for six years. Their growing audience illustrates the receptiveness among the public to set aside time for quiet reflection. Welcome to “Philosophy Talk,” a nationally syndicated call-in public radio show that bills itself as a “program that questions everything – except your intelligence,” and closes by thanking listeners — for thinking. The weekly, one-hour broadcast is the brainchild of Dr. John Perry, a University of California, Riverside philosophy professor. His co-host is Dr. Ken Taylor, the Henry Waldgrave Stuart Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University. They recently taped their 200th episode. The program began with seed money from Stanford in a tiny broadcast booth in San Francisco. Media observers doubted it would survive more than a few months, but its improbable theme became a magnet for audiences. The show was picked up in states such as Louisiana, New York and Oregon and now airs on several stations. Hosts Perry and Taylor chat with notable guests and entertain calls from listeners on topics as wide-ranging as terrorism and suicide, to happiness and beauty to the seemingly arcane. The professors banter like a welltraveled comedy duo and often find themselves with more callers than time during the course of each episode. Their ponderings frequently result in cerebral questions such as, “If truth is so valuable, why is there so much B.S.?” But the professors also offer ethical advice to callers struggling with conundrums of more practical consequence. For instance, should a worker continue taking a child to the company day care despite having quit his job? In a recent San Francisco Chronicle interview, Taylor said, “Our culture is debased because there is not enough deep reflection. You can philosophize on just about anything.” Discussions from weekly shows often migrate to the “Philosophy Talk” blog or Facebook page. Past shows are downloadable at philosophytalk.org. — Lydia Lum Meet The Bloggers Dr. Lorelle L. Espinosa’s new blog, STEM Watch, debuted this month at DiverseEducation.Com. Espinosa, the director of policy and strategic initiatives at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, writes about the national imperative of building and sustaining a diverse STEM pipeline. “The importance of faculty diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields cannot be overstated. Faculty represent the face of their institution and carry a great responsibility in that they exemplify, in the eyes of many students, the profile of individuals that successfully generate and disseminate knowledge,” she writes in her first post. “A key strategy to increasing diversity in STEM majors is increasing the number of tenured faculty who stand at the front of STEM classrooms.” Dr. Ibram H. Rogers, a former reporter for Diverse, has a new blog, From Uni-versity to Multi-versity. An African-American studies professor at SUNY College at Oneonta, Rogers discusses and proposes ideas and programs to improve diversity in higher education. In his first blog, Rogers takes aim at institutions that use the excuse, “Blacks and Latinos won’t come,” for their lack of diversity. “This reason indirectly posits that these colleges are recruiting these students and have the environment in place that will nurture their progress, but the students just will not come. … It is a sophisticated and pleasant way of placing the blame of the lack of diversity at schools on people who are not there — the prospective African-American and Latino students.”
Published by Cox, Matthews and Associates. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/Spectrum/342549/33604/article.html.