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About the Associate Chair (2010-2016)

For the benefit of the next ICS Associate Chair, and for anyone else who might wondering about the job, I thought it might be helpful to describe how I perceive the position.

For me, the Associate Chair focuses in two directions: inward (toward the department) and outward (toward the community).

Department support

The goal of the inward focus is to help individual faculty achieve their professional goals and to ensure that the aggregate efforts of the entire faculty are coordinated and mutually supportive. These efforts involve:

Developing the Fall and Spring schedules. For each schedule, I begin by sending out an email to obtain faculty preferences. Then, I assign courses, and finally time slots. This is a constraint satisfaction problem: you want to let faculty teach what they want, while also offering an optimal set of courses to both undergraduate and graduate students. I have never satisfied all the constraints.

Being a resource regarding the “global state” of the department. In order to provide this service, I try to attend all committee meetings. It is occasionally the case that the “left foot” is not aware of what the “right foot” is doing, and so the more meetings the Associate Chair attends, the more effective they can be at surfacing and helping to resolve coordination issues.

Gathering and collating the yearly workload data. Each January, ICS Policy dictates that workload information is gathered from faculty members and made available to the administration and public. The Associate Chair must figure out a way to cajole faculty into taking the 30 minutes required for this task. While its primary goal is to prevent more onerous workload policies from being imposed from above, many faculty tell me they find it helpful as a way to learn the “highlights” of faculty efforts during the prior year. A sample email is available here. I found it helpful to send out weekly emails reminding the faculty to do it and listing those faculty who had turned in a report so far as a way of rewarding them and making it public to the rest of the faculty who were not doing it. When you get a report, it’s good to review it immediately to see if the faculty member has submitted a report that totals only to 40 hours.  Every year, a few faculty don’t seem to get that constraint and if you reply immediately, then they are likely to fix it quickly since they were just working on it. If you wait until February 1 to review, then they might not be as responsive.

Supporting the ICS Chair. The Chair occasionally requires help with administration, from occasionally attending Chair Meetings, to serving as Acting Chair, to managing various procedures (hiring, five year reviews, etc.)

Being available. I keep my office door open (and put up a mirror so you can see if I’m in from the hallway) to facilitate informal interaction. I chat with faculty about departmental issues at least weekly and sometimes daily. My intent is to nurture the collegial nature of the department by making sure faculty have easy access to someone with “global state”. Email is very often not the appropriate medium for departmental issues.

Community outreach

The goal of the outward focus is to maintain and/or improve the reputation and impact of the department in the community. These efforts include:

Managing ICS website content. I don’t enjoy website management, but more than anything else, is our “face” to the community–students, parents, legislators, potential new faculty, high tech employers, the media, etc. I have learned over the past, well, 15 years that our website has an outsize influence on how we are perceived by others. For example, our news feed is featured on the home page of TechHui (, the most important high tech social media site in Hawaii. People periodically ask, “why don’t we just hire a student to manage the ICS website and provide content?”, and a snarky response might be, “Why don’t you just hire a student to write your grant proposals for you?” If we want to be perceived as a naive 22 year old with poor grammar, then, sure, we could hire a student. But if we want to be perceived as a Top 100 Computer Science department (more on that below), then I think someone with decent writing skills and an understanding of the global state of the department needs to be in charge. (Alternatively, like most Top 50 departments, we could hire a professional marketing person with superb writing skills to work full time on our community image. I fully support that idea, but until those resources become available, the Associate Chair position is probably best suited to take personal responsibility for our online image.)

Managing the ICS Website installation. The ICS Website is implemented in WordPress and includes several plugins, including a plugin called “Enfold” which was used by our website designer, Aaron Lee (  All of this software requires occasional updates, and these must be done quickly, as our website was hacked in the past because we had lagged behind in our updates.  As our web designer is no longer under contract to us, we need to take responsibility for this ourselves. I have been doing the updates, and this is simple to do about 90% of the time. One out of 10 times, the system breaks because the update is incompatible with Enfold, and we need to email Aaron to fix it.

Maintaining the ICS Calendar.   At a minimum, this means making sure the calendar contains upcoming ICS Friday faculty meetings.

Attend community functions. There are a variety of community functions where it is important for ICS to “show face”: Wetware Wednesday, high tech job fairs, government panels and advisory committees, radio and TV, etc. You can split this responsibility with the ICS Chair.

New initiatives

My final recommendation is to take on “projects” of your own design. Here are some ideas:

10Y20M. Continue the  “10 Years, $20 Million” initiative.  Work with David to move forward.

Top 100 Project. Get our Department recognized in the US News and World Report Top 100. I think we deserve to be in this ranking but have not done the appropriate marketing.  I have been saving brochures from other departments and can hand them off to the next Associate Chair as resource materials.

Seminars on calendar.  There are actually quite a few seminars and talks in the department, including department-wide and research group talks. While emails are sent out, I believe attendance would improve if they were consistently added to the ICS Department Calendar. That way those of us who subscribe to this Google calendar on our personal calendar would always be reminded when a seminar is coming up.

Increasing accessibility to our graduate program. The more that local high tech leaders engage with our program and are aware of its strengths, the more political clout we will have within the university for resources.  In the past, we have tried to improve accessibility through online classes, but this does not always lead to a quality experience and is not suited to all grad courses.  A different approach would be to simply declare that all graduate classes will be held starting at 5pm, and then market our graduate program to the local high tech community as an alternative to HPU’s M.S. degree.  Scheduling might look like this: 5-6:15pm, 6:30-7:45pm, 8-9:15pm on MW and TTh supports six 600-level courses without conflicts.  The grad seminar (690) could be moved to Fridays at 5pm, which makes it a natural “Pau Hana” activity. Beyond the political benefits, building up our M.S. program with local high tech community members could lead to more local collaboration and improve the pipeline into our Ph.D. program.

More academic profiles. I recently received a press release from DevLeague touting their placement of two graduates with Microsoft.  That’s great for DevLeague, and it makes me believe strongly that we need to do a good job of publicizing our successful graduates as well.  Our most recent academic profile is from 2012; I think our department will be well served by profiling at least recent graduate per year who has found success post-graduation.

Refresh the ICS Department “Lobby”. When you step off the main elevators onto the third floor, you come face-to-face with a wooden bookcase containing what appears to be anthropological relics from the paleolithic age of computing. (I’m being a little snarky here, but you get my point.) The bookcase gives the opposite impression of a modern, leading edge computer science department.  An alternative: remove the bookcase, and replace that area with floor-to-ceiling monitors (maybe behind plexiglass) providing information about the department, upcoming events, etc.  Such a technology seems to be right in Jason Leigh’s wheelhouse, and the cost of monitors is now so low that the project budget might be only a few thousand dollars.

Things are always changing, and the next Associate Chair may find that the Department requires them to address a different set of challenges.  I offer these observations not as an attempt to dictate the priorities, but simply to help the next Associate Chair to hit the ground running.