I am deeply honored to be here today. I thank the Commission on Women for giving me the opportunity to talk with you.
I want to tell you about three things, in hopes that they might interest and inform you for your own lives.
- My career and some lessons learned
- My mentors and the values they instilled
- A challenge to the community
Like most people, I love to talk about myself. Thanks to the Commission for giving me the encouragement to do so.
- In high school, I loved math and wanted to be a high-school math teacher.
- In college, I loved math and wanted to be a college math professor.
- In graduate school at Michigan State, I earned a Ph.D. in math in 1981 as well as masters’ degrees in both math and probability and statistics. My love for math got a bit tarnished due to the rather esoteric nature of the specialization required for research at this level. Although there were a number of women in the graduate program at this time, I still encountered an occasional faculty member who thought that math was for men.
- My first faculty position was at Beloit College, where I taught math and was asked to teach computer science. For my first year there, I was the only woman faculty member in the entire science division. I taught at Beloit for three years, from 1982 to 1985.
- While at Beloit, I attended the Institute for Retraining in Computer Science for two summers and found that I loved computer science.
- In 1985 I moved to UMD and joined the newly founded Department of Computer Science. I taught there for seven years, got tenure and promotion to associate professor, and served as department head for three years. My friend Dianne Dorland and I developed a peer-mentoring program for women in science and engineering.
- In 1992, I took the position of Director of Information Services, which later became Information Technology Systems and Services. I have held that position for 22 years.
- I plan to retire on May 21, 2014.
My mentors have been hugely important to me. They encouraged me when I was uncertain and gave me good advice when I needed it. Because this is the Annual Women’s Luncheon, I will talk about my women mentors. However, as a woman in mathematics, computer science, and technology, men have also been very important mentors for me.
- My parents encouraged me to go to school for as long as I wanted, although they made me pay for it once I hit graduate school.
- Don Tarbutton was my high-school math teacher. He taught me that math could be fun and encouraged me to further my education.
- Doug Nance and Bill Lakey were my favorite professors when I was an undergraduate. They encouraged me to go to graduate school, and their support helped me to believe in myself.
- Ed Ingraham was my graduate dissertation advisor. He taught me the value of compassion and a good work-life balance in addition to providing the professional direction I needed to complete my Ph.D.
- Sabra Anderson was the Dean of Science and Engineering when I was department head. She taught be how to be tough but fair.
- Dianne Dorland was department head of Chemical Engineering while I was head of Computer Science. She taught me not to apologize too often.
- Sandra Featherman was the Vice Chancellor for Academic Administration when I was hired as Director of Information Services. She taught me how to base my decisions on principles. This enabled me to make consistent decisions efficiently, without having to rethink my approach to each new problem.
- Andrea Schokker is the Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and my current boss. She has demonstrated transparency in decision making, even when it gives her critics ammunition. She emphasized the importance of having fun and enjoying your work.
A Challenge to the Community
When I was a graduate student, I was very involved in the feminist movement. Back then we dreamed of how women would change the world for the better. As we moved into positions of power, we would use that power for good. We would leverage our people skills to empower others. We would advocate for peace and a better world.
I have discovered that things are more complex than that long-ago vision. I have had wonderful women mentors who more than exceeded that early feminist vision, but I have also known women that I did not admire. Men have been important mentors to me, often exemplifying the soft skills that women are known for. It just goes to show you to be wary of generalizations, although vision and goals are still powerful tools.
UMD has changed a great deal in the past three years. With such great changes often comes disruption and angst. I am troubled by the polarization that has resulted in our community. I challenge all of you to put your skills to good use rebuilding the UMD community. Here are some specific suggestions:
- Give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t jump to conclusions without concrete evidence.
- Recognize that those with opposing views may have some parts of their arguments you can agree to.
- Talk to those on both sides of the issues and really listen to what they have to say. Don’t rely on hearsay.
- Advocate for understanding and positive working relationships.
I have loved working at UMD, and I will truly miss all of the great people here who have been my colleagues and friends. UMD is a great institution. Please do your best to make it even better.
Thank you very much.