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Department roles and responsibilities (part of a draft letter to the incoming chair)

I’m nearing the end of my letter to the incoming chair. In this section, we step back to look more broadly at the tasks that are shared within the department. Some of these were included in an earlier musing, but more properly belong here.

As you likely recall, we have a wide variety of tasks that are shared among the members of the department. Some, like putting together the schedule of classes and reviewing faculty, are officially the Chair’s responsibility, but can be delegated. Others are not the Chair’s direct responsibility, but need to be handled (and the chair should probably make sure that they are handled). Here are the ones that I can recall.

Representative to the Division Personnel Committee. The Representative participates in discussions of tenure and promotion for faculty in the division. The Division Personnel Committee provides a recommendation to the College Personnel Committee. The Representative must be a tenured member of the department. We typically elect our representative at the first department meeting of the year.

Representative to the Carver Data Science Committee. As you know, the College received a generous grant from the Carver Foundation to help develop a program in Data Science at Grinnell. The department is expected to have a representative on that committee (and should have a representative on that committee). The Representative participates in discussions of Data Science at the College and helps allocate the Carver Funds. You served as that representative when the committee was formed. Charlie has served as your replacement this past year. I’d encourage you to leave Charlie in that position.

Representative to the General Science Major. Every department in the Science Division, with the exception of the Library, has a representative for the General Science Major. The Representative participates in discussions about the major. Our most recent discussions have been about courses to count (or not to count) toward the major and about honors. I currently serve as the representative and would be happy to continue.

Representative to the Hendrixson Fund. Every department in the Science Division, with the exception of the Library, has a representative for the Hendrixson Fund. The Hendrixson fund helps support some aspects of faculty research in the sciences, particularly page charges for publishing articles. Charlie served as our Hendrixson rep this past year.

Representative to the Noyce Visiting Professor Committee. The Noyce Visiting Professor fund supports visitors in Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science, and Math/Stats. The committee has been on hiatus these past few years, but Karen has suggested that she will revive it. (Because the committee was on hiatus, Noyce visitors were selected on more of an ad-hoc process than is normal.)

Chaperone to the Midstates Undergraduate Research Symposium. Two years ago, the Science Division decided that this responsibility would rotate between Chemistry, Physics, and Computer Science, with Math/Stats joining the rotation if they sent students. I chaperoned last year because it was our turn and no other member of the department was available. At the last Science Division meeting of the year, Karen noted that the rotation may change. But it’s likely that we will have to send a chaperone every once in a while.

Assessment Coordinator. The department is expected to have a designated assessment coordinator who works with our various assessment programs to ensure that we conduct regular assessment and share it with appropriate offices on campus. Two current priorities related to assessment are revisiting our major learning outcomes and developing course learning outcomes. I expect these responsibilities will increase as the College prepares for its external review. Peter-Michael is currently our assessment coordinator.

Communications Liaison. Communications asked us to appoint a liaison. I believe the primary role of the liaison is to answer questions about activities in the department and to approve stories that mention the department. Charlie had agreed to serve in the role this past year, but Communications seemed to have decided to work with me directly.

Computer Science Museum Curator. Someone should keep track of the museum holdings, keep the displays up to date (and rotate them), solicit donations, and so on and so forth. Henry Walker had been doing that, but it’s time for the role to pass on. One of the big tasks is to update the museum database, which relies on our current Drupal installation.

Steward of the Computer Science Commons. Someone should make sure that the hot water pot is filled each morning, that things are straightened, that the dishes are washed (and that the SEPC washes them if not), that we have appropriate supplies, and so on and so forth. You should consider designating this role to a Department Student Assistant.

Faculty Advisor to Grinnell Women in Computing. WinC, like all student groups, benefits from a faculty advisor. You can choose to delegate to the WinC advisor use of the CS Diversity Fund for WinC activities. I’ve served as co-advisor with Rachel Schnepper, our Associate Director of Academic Computing, for the past two years. Liz Rodrigues has expressed some interest in helping.

Faculty Advisor to Grinnell People of Color in Computing. This group does not yet exist. But I have heard a strong push from our students to create such a group. If we create the group (or, more precisely, if our students create such a group), it will need a faculty advisor. I expect that either Peter-Michael or I will serve in that role.

Faculty Advisor to the Student ACM Chapter. ACM requires that our student chapter has a faculty advisor. Right now, the Student ACM Chapter is trying to figure out what their mission is. They have two independent goals: They would like to be the primary means for outreach to our community and they would like to provide better support for our students who want more CLS-like support. (They will not replace CLS; however, it is likely that our students are better able to do mock code interviews [1] than the folks in CLS.) Peter-Michael currently serves in this role and is likely to continue for another year.

Study-abroad Advisor. Someone in the department needs to be available to talk to students about the various CS-related study-abroad options and, more generally, about how to fit a study-abroad opportunity into their four-year plan. While we all can provide some advice, we usually have one designated go to person to resolve particular questions and to serve as the representative of the various programs. The Study-abroad Advisor also keeps track of study-abroad programs that are relevant to CS and a list of course equivalents from those programs. If I recall correctly, you agreed to take on this responsibility whether or not you are chair.

Diversity Conference Coordinator. The department helps support our students from underrepresented groups by supporting trips to the Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and MINK-WiC, our regional GHC. One member of our department (formerly Janet, currently me) deals with the various issues associated with these conferences, including working with the ASAs to purchase memberships, reserve hotel rooms, and make transportation arrangements; holding a competitive application process for our scholarships; raising funds to support these costs; and creating a post-conference report for our funding organizations. We currently try to gather funds from the following sources: the HHMI grant (now expired), the Wilson Center, the Chief Diversity Officer, the President, Alumni, and our own Diversity Fund. I have served in this role in the past, and am likely to continue.

Coordinator of the Pledge of the Computing Professional. We are the cadr of the linked list of nodes that constitute the Iowa branch of the Pledge of the Computing Professional. We hold one induction ceremony each year. In preparation for that ceremony, we need to purchase pins, verify that we have enough stoles, and print certificates. We had some recent discussions about the Pledge and are still trying to find ways to make sure that our students understand that it is important to sign up in advance. John Stone has served in this role for the past two years. He may be willing to continue, even while on leave.

Coordinator of CS Table. We need someone to pick the weekly readings for CS table, make copies available, advertise, and lead discussions. Charlie and PM have been doing this task for the past year and are likely to continue.

Coordinator of CS Extras. We need someone to set up the schedule, get titles and abstracts with speakers, advertise, gather food, introduce the speaker, and so on and so forth. John Stone has been doing this for the past few years. We will need a replacement.

Picnic Planner. Someone gets to work with Math/Stats to plan the CS/Math/Stats picnic. Peter-Michael has served in this role for the past year and is likely to continue for another year.

Graduate-School Liaison. We have a variety of schools that like to come to Grinnell to give recruiting talks, including [elided]. We find it helpful to have someone to write to the chairs or directors of graduate studies at these schools to identify if or when they would like to visit to speak. You served in this role for a few years. You might maintain the role or you might pass it on to someone else.

Senior-Lunch Planner. We have a senior lunch on the Monday of finals week. Our tradition is to hold it at Relish. We need to reserve Relish, gather orders from students and faculty, remind students and faculty who have not ordered, plan the agenda, and so on and so forth. I originated the senior lunch and have coordinated it each year. I am happy to continue to do so. I may call on you to give a speech.

Placement Coordinator. For the past two decades, Henry Walker has placed each incoming student into classes in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science. He has custom software to support that process. Two years ago, I took over the role of placing students. I expect that I will continue in the role as long as I am able. Nonetheless, it will be useful to have others learn the process so that we can share as appropriate.

Editor, Alumni Newsletter. No, we don’t have an alumni newsletter. But one of the clear outcomes from the affinity reunion is that we should. This could also be a student job.

[1] No, that is not an interview in which you make fun of someone’s code.

Version 1.1 of 2017-05-29.