Archive for the 'chair' Category

Dec 13 2017

The Place to Be for Computer Science

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(This post was authored by Dr. Jerry Gannod.)

Have you ever heard anyone use this phrase: “TTU is a hidden gem!”. I know that some would like things to stay this way; if you are an employer looking for graduates, hidden gems are wonderful because you don’t have to compete for the next wave of new hires. I personally have an issue with this. My desire for this department is to have it become recognized as the top destination for computing students in the State of Tennessee – e.g., become the place to be for computer science. There are many ways to interpret what that means and to me, I think that our brand, as an institution and as a department is one that has its foundation in excellence in teaching without sacrificing quality in scholarship. In our current state, I don’t believe we are ready to broadly compete in research with the likes of UT-Knoxville or Vanderbilt University. However, our faculty are excellent scholars who understand that a balance between teaching and scholarship yields outstanding outcomes for our students.

Hidden Gem_Gannod
We’ve had many positive accomplishments in the past year. We hosted our first Computing and IT Alumni Conference in April, 2017 in partnership with the Department of Decision Sciences and Management (DSM). The conference provided the backdrop for the announcement of SAIC establishing the Cookeville Technology Integration Gateway, including the creation of 300-400 new jobs in the area. Indeed, many of our successes have been due to our corporate relationships. We’ve been able to raise approximately $50K in new funding to support our capstone course due to generous gifts from Unum, Relatient, SAIC, CARTA, Urban Science, and Cru. These gifts allow our students to travel to sponsor sites, acquire equipment and software subscriptions, and generally operate a small software development organization. We also were able to raise an additional $50K in new funding from The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee Foundation to establish a new endowed scholarship. These scholarships will enable us to continue our efforts improve the diversity of our student body. Furthermore, through the efforts of Dr. Ambareen Siraj and the Cybersecurity Education Research and Outreach Center (CEROC), an infusion of $2M from the State of Tennessee has been allocated to help CEROC make the Department of Computer Science at TTU the place to be for cybersecurity education.
Each success over the past year has been tempered by challenges that have required the kind of mindset that is open to unconventional solutions and exploring new ground. While we have seen hundreds of new computing jobs get created in Cookeville, we have also experienced budget cuts that have reduced our fiscal flexibility. We’ve seen growth in student enrollment, but have also faced challenges in being able to reduce class sizes in order to provide the best educational experience for our students.
My desire as the chair of this department is to try to enable every part of this community to become successful. I have had one of my colleagues tell me that our strategic plan and all of our efforts have been aimed at the “top” students and that we effectively ignore the middle and lower part of the bell. I disagree. For instance, all of the funding in the capstone course is spread across ALL teams, not just an elite few. The new scholarships are aimed at increasing diversity – to students from underrepresented groups that would not otherwise even consider TTU as a destination for matriculation. As we seek to create opportunities for our students to study abroad, our focus is making this accessible to all students – not just the elite ones.


(Photo by
Anyway, I like to believe that my mindset is a growth mindset. In particular, regardless of the challenges and roadblocks that we might face, I believe there are always solutions to our problems. We just might not have found them yet. These solutions might not fit into the mold of what we want, and they may only get us part of the way towards our original goals. These solutions are cumulative and as we move forward, it is just as important to learn something along the way, to build partnerships with those we meet on the road, and to consider that just because we may have always done some things certain ways doesn’t mean that we’ve always done it the right or best way. As such, we have to be willing to push the boundaries of our experiences and assess whether or not some new way of approaching our problems may hold promise. We pick and choose our battles, realizing that ground lost today may yield ground gained tomorrow.
As we look forward to the new year, I invite you to keep an eye out on some other developments in our department. We hope to add five new faculty members over the next couple of years in order to meet our teaching and scholarship mission, especially in the presence of our growing enrollment. Also, in the new year we will be opening up our new Data Science and Analytics Collaboratory in the Volpe Library in a joint effort with the Department of Decision Sciences and Management in the College of Business. We will be continuing our efforts to renovate our learning, research, and faculty spaces, and redoubling our efforts to attract the best and brightest students to TTU to study Computer Sciences. I hope that you will join us on this journey.

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Apr 03 2017

Welcome to SAIC

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As you have perhaps heard, an announcement was made regarding the opening of a site in Cookeville, TN by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), a company headquartered in McLean, VA. When at steady state, their operations will number approximately 300 computing positions. When combined with the 40 to 80 positions brought to Cookeville by Digital Dream Forge in February, the growth in the IT sector in the area has grown immensely with the Lion’s share of these positions being targeted towards Computer Science and other associated degrees such as Business Information Technology. For several months, the Department of Computer Science (CSC) has been part of an effort by the State of Tennessee, City of Cookeville, and Tennessee Tech University (TTU) to bring SAIC to the region. The effort has included the development of a partnership between SAIC and CSC to create a pipeline of graduates that are ready to meet the workforce needs for SAIC in Computer Science, Cybersecurity, and Data Science.


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Nov 14 2016

On the Importance of Establishing a Mindset and Culture for the Department

Published by under chair,faculty

A mindset identifies our attitudes towards how we perceive the world and the situations that we encounter within it. Indeed, a mindset defines the culture of a community and can often foreign to outsiders or new members. For instance, take the example of the difference between a western mindset and an eastern mindset. A western mindset emphasizes the individual while the eastern mindset emphasizes the group. This is best illustrated by the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympic games when it was reported that while it appeared that a beautiful young girl was singing the song “Ode to the motherland” that she was merely lip-syncing to the voice of another girl that was off stage [1]. While many in the Western world were appalled at this practice, claiming that it was demeaning to both girls, others in the Eastern world claimed that the song was performed in this way for the good of the nation. The differing mindsets defined the interpretation of the performance of the song just as our mindset defines our interpretation of how we approach social situations within interpersonal, small group, and large group interactions. In relativist terms, the appropriateness of the lip-syncing practice was culturally determined.

Academic departments are constantly faced with micro and macro clashes between culture that are rooted in the mindset by which the members of the community have either learned via observation and socialization, or have brought into the environment by way of their own external experiences and expectations. According to Seidman, a characteristic that distinguishes the nature of an organizational culture is communication – specifically, how information is created, communicated, and used [2]. Unfortunately, very rarely do we ever formalize the ways in which we create, communicate, and use that information. Instead, we expect that faculty, staff, and students will learn the norms through interactions with others – first as novices but eventually as full members of the community.

Growth/Fixed Mindset from Dweck [3]. Image from CSU Health Network [].

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Oct 06 2016

Five Myths about Professors

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I have often questioned whether the general public or even university students really know what it is like to be a professor. I think that our profession is viewed as a collection of “egg heads” that work in (if I may use the platitude) an “Ivory Tower”, completely oblivious to the world outside the brick and mortar of our university campuses. The fact is that popular media, movies, and other outlets misrepresent the role of the university professor, often relying on a number of stereotypes that have been propagated for several years. So, then, you may ask, “What is a professor?” I will attempt to shed some light on this question in an effort to give you an opportunity to perhaps gain some level of empathy, if not sympathy, over the plight of the academic by addressing a number of myths.

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Aug 27 2016

Impressions of Convocation

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As we embark on the start of a new academic year the tradition of the freshman convocation provides an opportunity to welcome new students to the Tennessee Tech University family. For me, there is something special about this particular convocation (aside from the fact that I too am new to TTU). This is the “Class of 2020” – the class that all of the strategic plans and focus on the future have been directed towards for the past twenty years.

Class of 2020 Oath

Students taking the Academic Oath during the Class of 2020 Convocation

With that, we have placed this class in a special position and so we, as a department, as teachers and educators, and as full members of the Golden Eagle community, have a responsibility to welcome this class with open arms and to usher them towards fulfillment of the burden that they face in becoming the embodiment of the computer scientists and engineers of 2020. As I take my part in doing this, I am coming to learn about how special a place TTU is.
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