Volume 18 • Issue 2

On Campus: Faculty News

Sociology Professor to Receive Prestigious National Award Southwestern University

Sociology Professor Ed Kain has been selected to receive the 2007 Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award from the American Sociological Association. The award will be presented at the association’s annual meeting to be held in New York City Aug. 11-14.

The award recognizes contributions that have made a significant impact on the manner in which sociology is taught at a regional, state, national or international level. It is one of nine annual awards given by the American Sociological Association, which has nearly 14,000 members nationwide.

Kain has been actively involved with the American Sociological Association for many years. He has chaired its Section on Teaching and Learning, completed numerous external reviews of sociology departments across the country, served on the editorial board of Teaching Sociology, and served as national field coordinator of the association’s Teaching Resources Group. In 1997, he received the Hans O. Mauksch Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Sociology, given by the association’s Section on Undergraduate Education.

“Ed’s leadership in the American Sociological Association is unparalleled,” says Maxine P. Atkinson, associate professor of sociology at North Carolina State University and chair of the ASA 2007 Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award Committee.

Kain has published more than 75 books and articles, many of which focus on teaching sociology. He co-edited two of the four editions of Innovative Techniques for Teaching Sociological Concepts and has published multiple articles in Teaching Sociology. The sociology curriculum at Southwestern—which Kain played a major part in developing—has been selected as a model for other colleges across the country.

Kain has been a member of the Southwestern faculty since 1986 and was named University Scholar in 2000.

“Dr. Kain embodies all the finest qualities of a teacher/scholar at a residential, liberal arts institution,” says Provost Jim Hunt. “He is student-centered, energetic and innovative in his approach to teaching. He not only teaches well, but also leads and encourages others to teach well. I am certain that his efforts on our campus are reflective of his work on a national basis as well.”

Southwestern Professor Leads Project to Gather Stories of Female Computer Science Pioneers

This year, only one female student will be graduating from Southwestern with a degree in computer science. Nationwide, the statistics are pretty much the same: only about 20 percent of students receiving degrees in computer science are women.

Encouraging more women to enter the field of computer science is among the goals of a project being led by Barbara Boucher Owens, associate professor of computer science at Southwestern.

Owens is working on an oral history project to document the stories of the women who pioneered the field of computer science. The project began several years ago after a number of papers and books reported alarming trends in the number of students pursing careers in computer science, particularly women.

“We are not getting nearly the number of computer science majors needed to meet the needs of our country,” Owens says. “This has to change.”

Shrinking numbers are especially problematic for women, Owens said, because research shows that one of the keys to success for women in computer science is to have the support of other women. “As fewer women enter the field, there is no one for other women to talk to,” she says.

Encouraging more women to enter the field of computer science is among the goals of a project being led by Barbara Boucher Owens, an associate professor of computer science at Southwestern.

In 2004, Owens organized a meeting to discuss the problem with colleagues in the Association for Computer Machinery’s Computer Science Education Special Interest Group. Owens has been a member of this group’s board since 1995 and currently serves as its vice chair.

One idea they came up with was to collect oral histories of women who have persevered in the field. “Role model stories really attract women into fields,” Owens says.

The group got several experts to train them on how to collect oral histories, and Owens has received several grants to fund the project. In January, she received a $40,000 grant from the National Science Foundation that will help her and her colleagues continue planning the project.

“It is important to collect these stories now because many of the pioneers in this field are growing older,” Owens says.

Owens helped collect the first interview for the project in 2005 with Maria Klawe, the first woman to serve as president of Harvey Mudd College, one of the country’s premier undergraduate colleges for engineering, science and mathematics.

Since then, Owens and her colleagues have collected oral histories from 11 women and three men. Excerpts from some of the interviews are posted online at a temporary Web site Owens set up at cs.southwestern.edu/OHProject.

This semester, students in the computer science capstone class at Southwestern are working on improvements to this Web site. After a prototype Web site is in place, Owens and her colleagues plan to find a permanent home for the project.

“We want it to be hosted at a place that is known for having oral history collections, especially ones related to computer science,” Owens says. She said possibilities include the Charles Babbage Institute at the University of Minnesota or the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

Even after a permanent home for the collection is found, Owens says the task of collecting stories will continue. “History collections never stop,” she says.