For Renée McCauley, professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science, having a passion for computer science education extends far beyond the classroom. That’s one reason she is such a dedicated member of and volunteer for the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the flagship organization for computer science professionals around the world.
McCauley has contributed significantly to ACM’s Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE), an international community consisting of thousands of educators, and will be recognized for her service at the 54th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education in March 2023, when she will officially receive the 2023 SIGCSE Award for Lifetime Service to the Computer Science Education Community. The award honors an individual who has a long history of volunteer service to the computer science education community.
McCauley has been a member of ACM SIGCSE throughout her 30-plus years in the computing profession. For her, attending SIGCSE conferences is like going to the Sundance Film Festival – complete with glimpses of the stars!
“I remember seeing a textbook author across the room talking about teaching techniques — for me, he was a celebrity,” says McCauley, who notes that SIGCSE is a great place to find mentors. “All people are accessible at SIGCSE, which is not what you expect at a conference of experts. It’s a highly collegial organization and a very welcoming and collaborative group.”
McCauley’s positive SIGCSE experience led her to volunteer for various organizational positions over the years. In addition to co-chairing annual conferences, she was elected to the SIGCSE board for 12 years – serving three-year terms as an at-large board member, treasurer, chair and immediate past chair. Under her leadership, the SIGCSE organization grew in several ways – from membership to conference sizes to international presence – and introduced programs for educators at the K-12 level as well as professional workshops for new faculty and department chairs.
McCauley also held leadership positions at the parent organization, ACM, for six years. She co-edited a top computing education research journal for seven years and led or contributed to several international computing curriculum committees. She was also involved in the creation of the ACM Inroads magazine, and served on numerous committees and panels in other national and international organizations, including the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Computer Society, the National Science Foundation and the Computing Research Association Committee on the Status of Women.
These are just a few highlights of McCauley’s professional imprint on the international computer science community. She credits the College for giving her the freedom, opportunities and support when it was needed.
“I am thankful to the College for giving me the opportunity to balance my research grants, research papers and community service for the international community,” says McCauley. “It has made my career so far very rewarding.”
Susan Rodger, a professor of the practice in Duke University’s Department of Computer Science, nominated McCauley for the lifetime service award, saying, “McCauley has led SIGCSE and the computer science education community in new directions and programs with great benefits to all.”
“I still enjoy volunteering professionally, and have maintained an active research program with NSF funding and many international collaborators,” says McCauley, who is the first female faculty member to chair the College’s Department of Computer Science. “I review papers and grant proposals, and sit on professional committees. Currently, as chair of the computer science department, I am more locally focused, particularly on how I can assist faculty to be successful, including mentoring new faculty toward tenure and promotion or senior instructorship. It is important to help guide faculty to ensure they are successful for the long term, as this reflects greatly on the quality of students and professionals we produce – the next generation of computer scientists – and the impact this has on society at large.”
“Winning the SIGCSE Lifetime Service Award is a remarkable honor, and Dr. McCauley truly is clearly deserving of this distinction,” says Sebastian van Delden, dean of the School of Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering at the College. “Not only is she an internationally renowned expert and scholar, she is an outstanding department chair who brings out the best in her colleagues, students and staff. I am so privileged to work with her and benefit from her mentorship and friendship.”
On March 17, 2023, McCauley will officially receive the lifetime service award and speak at the 54th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, which will be held in Toronto, Canada. She will talk about how she first got involved with SIGCSE; about how, year after year, she became increasingly engaged; and, finally, about all the great people she met and mentored her. She hopes to encourage young colleagues to begin engaging and contributing similarly for years to come.
Now McCauley is the conference celebrity attendees hope to see.