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SCS Faculty Honored at Carnegie Mellon's Celebration of Education


SCS faculty members were honored at this week's Celebration of Education Awards Ceremony.

School of Computer Science faculty members took home top accolades when Carnegie Mellon University honored faculty, staff and students at its annual Celebration of Education Awards on Thursday, April 27. The annual event recognizes the accomplishments of those who exemplify the university's standards of excellence in education and honors their outstanding contributions to the university and their devotion to and effectiveness in teaching. 

This year's SCS winners include David Kosbie and Mark Stehlik, both teaching professors in the Computer Science Department, who received the Mark Gelfand Award for Educational Outreach for their work to found CMU CS Academy. Motahhare Eslami, an assistant professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) and Software and Societal Systems Department, and Geoff Kaufman, the Robert E. Kraut Associate Professor of Human-Computer Interaction, both earned Teaching Innovation Awards.

David Kosbie and Mark Stehlik

The Mark Gelfand Award for Educational Outreach celebrates members of the university community who have combined sustained, effective community service with academic coursework and a deliberate process of student reflection to enhance the learning experience, teach social responsibility and improve some aspect of life in the community.

It's no surprise that Kosbie and Stehlik would garner this year's award. Between them, they've taught computer programming to thousands of CMU undergraduates, but that wasn't enough for them. They envisioned a world where middle and high school students anywhere could access computer programming courses well before college — a world where such a curriculum was not only free but also came with baked-in teacher resources and technical support. Their vision became reality in 2018 with the launch of CMU CS Academy, an online, graphics-based computer science curriculum that Kosbie and Stehlik designed with the support of SCS undergraduates to teach students how to program in Python. Since its inception, the program has reached more than 250,000 students across the country.

"The CMU CS1 class enables teachers of all programming abilities to introduce students to programming in a way that electrifies them and gets them excited to learn Python," said CMU CS Academy user David Snyder, director of educational technology at Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey. "Just as important, we have noticed that a disproportionately high number of minorities as well as students from lower economic backgrounds are taking this course. The creators of this class have made programming easily accessible for people from ALL backgrounds. Carnegie Mellon should be proud of what it has accomplished. The impact is powerful." (Read more on The Piper website.)

Motahhare Eslami

CMU's Teaching Innovation Award recognizes teaching practices or strategies designed to improve student learning in online, blended or face-to-face courses. For Eslami, that honor comes for her efforts to introduce fairness, accountability, transparency and ethics (FATE) issues into her own courses and the CMU environment as a whole.

"Motahhare recognized that we equip our students with great technical skills, but we do not consistently train them about ethical challenges these computer systems might introduce into real-world settings," said Jessica Hammer, the Thomas and Lydia Moran Associate Professor of Learning Science in the HCII and Entertainment Technology Center. "Her interventions are modular, scalable and subtly designed to address a challenging problem: not just teaching about FATE concepts, but also setting our students up to be people who see FATE as their responsibility and are prepared to take effective action." (Read more on The Piper website.)

Geoff Kaufman

When Kaufman first joined the HCII faculty, he noted that the institute's project courses rarely featured inclusion and accessibility as explicit priorities for technology design, and they didn't focus on inclusion and belonging within the actual student teams. Kaufman earned the Teaching Innovation Award for his work to revamp his "Persuasive Design" course to fill this gap, teaching students both how to design inclusively and empathetically and how to be inclusive and empathetic teammates.

"Professor Kaufman’s innovation takes the form of a carefully formulated and robust focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. This innovation is deeply embedded in the course and syllabus design, and emerges both explicitly and implicitly in materials, assignments and pedagogy," said Samantha Reig, an HCII Ph.D. student who took the course and went on to be one of its teaching assistants. "Professor Kaufman has designed a class in which students learn by practicing inclusive norms in an inclusive environment while designing and evaluating inclusive and equitable technologies that persuade people to do right by themselves and each other." (Read more on The Piper website.)

For more on the university's education awards, visit the Celebration of Education website.

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Geoff Kaufman, Motahhare Eslami