The ACM Karlstrom Award is presented annually to outstanding educators in recognition for the advancement of new teaching methodologies and for significant contributions to the development and expansion of computer science and engineering. Professor Andy van Dam of Brown CS received the award for his impact on shaping the next generation of computer scientists in 1993, and this year, his fifty-third at Brown, marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of that recognition.
Although widely recognized in the field of computer graphics, Andy has always retained a unique passion for inspiring many thousands of students through his many years teaching. Even when Computer Science was still in its infancy and a mere shadow of its current form, Andy was at the forefront of guiding young minds through the subject. He taught the world’s first high school program in Computer Science in Philadelphia in 1962, and cites this experience as being pivotal in shaping his path towards academia. Andy went on to co-found the Department of Computer Science with John Savage at Brown, chairing the department from 1979-1985 and playing a central role in its development over the years.
When asked about his ability to impact so many students in such a meaningful way, Andy cites his unrelenting passion and commitment to teaching as being of utmost importance to him: “I have recorded nearly all my lectures so I can listen to them, and learn what to do better.” Andy has had a predominant role in retaining this kind of focus and attention on undergraduate education that remains a hallmark of the Brown CS program. From instituting a comprehensive undergraduate Teaching Assistant program (currently with 46 UTAs and 4 head UTAs in his introductory CS course alone) to helping to establish the departmental culture of considering teaching a central responsibility of all Brown CS faculty, this emphasis on quality undergraduate education has continued to foster a community of learning to this day.
In a testament to his influence and impact on so many within the Computer Science field, one of Andy’s undergraduate teaching and research assistants, the late CMU professor Randy Pausch himself went on to win the very same Karlstrom award for his work inventing the Alice 3D programming environment for creating VR experiences. The two were the only advisor-advisee pair to win the award, and when asked about Randy, Andy said that he was marked by “his huge investment in undergraduate teaching, his unrelenting optimism, and his overall energy”.
Although Andy continues to be recognized for his work in Computer Science (recently being named to the SIGGRAPH Academy for contributions to computer graphics), it is his commitment to teaching that has touched the lives of so many students over the years.
For more information, click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communications Outreach Specialist Jesse Polhemus.