In the past ten years, more than 30 Brown CS graduates have taken faculty positions across the country. Often, these are teaching-focused positions at liberal arts institutions, such as (most recently): Hammurabi Mendes at Davidson College; Layla Oesper at Carleton College; Joe Gibbs Politz at University of California, San Diego; Anna Ritz at Reed College; and Crystal (Kahn) Valentine at Amherst College. PhD candidate Alexandra Papoutsaki has followed the same path, accepting an offer for what she calls a "dream job" — assistant professor at Pomona College.
Alexandra explains that the idea of teaching computer science really started to interest her in 2014, when she was taking certificate programs in education at the Sheridan Center in preparation for serving as a teaching assistant with Assistant Professor Jeff Huang. "I loved it," she says. "I felt like I was starting to grow as an educator, and I loved the practical experience. I really started to get comfortable doing research with undergrads."
But the "most transformative" moment, she says, was shadowing Hammurabi (sole instructor for CS0931 Introduction to Computation for the Humanities and Social Sciences), then taking his place. It was the most diverse set of students she'd worked with in many respects, from gender to country of origin to interdisciplinary background. "One of my students," says Alexandra, "was an urban studies concentrator from South Africa. She used what she learned in our course to support her thesis on crime in Johannesburg by analyzing Google Maps. It's a perfect example of how these students felt that they didn't have to become computer scientists in order to use computation."
A final dose of inspiration came in the form of an info session led by Professor Shriram Krishnamurthi that featured alums Jadrian Myles (now at Phillips Academy) and Andy Pavlo (now at Carnegie Mellon University). Alexandra was just about ready to start applying for jobs. "Jeff and Shriram were very supportive," she says. "And I needed it! The process of interviewing at school after school was a crazy experience. I spent months on the road."
Alexandra also has some words of advice for students who might be interested in a similar path: "If you're going to apply to a liberal arts school, really apply to a liberal arts school. Show that you care about diversity and inclusion. Don't make it look like they're your second or third choice."
"I chose Pomona because it's growing," she says. "For a smaller CS department, it's very strong. Being part of the Claremont Consortium, with access to Harvey Mudd College and University of California, Irvine, had a lot of appeal." She'll be teaching two courses in the fall, one on human-computer interaction and another on data structures. And as this story was going to press, we received another piece of good news: Alexandra has just won a Best Paper Honorable Mention at the ACM SIGIR Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval (CHIIR) for a paper ("SearchGazer: Webcam Eye Tracking for Remote Studies of Web Search") that was part of her dissertation and job talk. Congratulations, Alexandra!
For more information, please click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communication Outreach Specialist Jesse C. Polhemus.