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Department of Computer Science

Chair's message

Kathleen Fisher

December 2020

This semester has been unprecedented in the challenges faced by students, staff, and faculty. I'm tremendously appreciative of the resilience, creativity, and mutual support that the Tufts Computer Science community has exhibited throughout the semester. Examples include: students figuring out the best ways to learn in this year's socially distant environment, faculty members experimenting with different ways to deliver lecture content online, remote students starting their day at 10:00pm in their time zone to match Tufts time, staff and faculty members meeting with such students at 7:00am or 11:00pm local time, graduate students giving their qualifying exam talks via Zoom, and teaching assistants offering extra online office hours when students are struggling. Our entire community has been pitching in.

Some things worked reasonably well, like dividing lectures into short videos followed by "check your understanding" questions. Other things we are still trying to figure out, like how to manage crowded office hours online or how to provide meaningful social activities online. On the latter front, we are going to experiment with some faculty/staff/student online social activities during the unusually long winter break, including a reading of Alice Through the Looking-Glass, a friendly Jackbox game tournament, and a panel on imposter syndrome.

On the diversity, equity, and inclusion front, I'm delighted to announce that we have hired Edward Alexander as our inaugural Diversity Program Administrator. Edward's time will be split between the Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering departments. In both departments, he will work to support and lead a variety of diversity and inclusion initiatives. Edward's newly-created position is a step forward in Tufts furthering its commitment to being an anti-racist institution. Before arriving at Tufts, Edward spent two years as a program assistant for the Student Life office at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where he supported student-run initiatives and developed diversity, equity, and inclusion programming. Prior to Sloan, Edward worked as a diversity and inclusion fellow for the City of South Bend, Indiana under then-Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

The construction of Joyce Cummings Center continues apace. The building is projected to be finished in October 2021, and the department plans to take up occupancy in the new space by the 2022 spring semester. You can see a time lapse series of photos showing the construction at https://engineering.tufts.edu/jccwebcam.

We are pleased at how well the Tufts community has followed the guidelines for social distancing, and how that compliance has enabled us to complete the fall semester with the vast majority of our students studying on campus. We are looking forward to having even more students on campus during spring semester, and we are hopeful that the Fall 2021 semester might see the start of a return to normalcy.

With all the challenges of the fall semester, we are all looking forward to the rest and rejuvenation that the relatively long winter break promises.

With very warm wishes for a safe and meaningful holiday season,

Kathleen Fisher
Professor and Chair
Department of Computer Science