Assistant Dean for Outreach
Teaching Professor (née Principal Lecturer)
(but I prefer "Education Engineer")
"What is Your Fractal Dimension?"
– my talk at TEDx Education City in Doha, January 18, 2014
"Pravda vítězí (Truth prevails)"
– motto of the Czech Republic
"You're, like, a man page for “life”."
– Serene, CMU CS alum ('12)
"What you do is who you are;
how you do it is what you are."
– me (apologies to Aristotle)
"New is not a virtue; better is a virtue!"
– Takeo Kanade, CMU Robotics Professor
"Cursing a flat tire does not fix it."
– seen on a calendar in Maribor, Slovenia
"But it does make you feel better!"
"Start by doing what's necessary;
then do what's possible;
and suddenly you are doing the impossible."
– St. Francis of Assisi
"God, grant me:
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference."
– Reinhold Niebuhr
"No man becomes rich unless he enriches others."
– Andrew Carnegie
"Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile."
– Albert Einstein, quoted in remembrance of Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013
"The role of a coach, and the role of a teacher, is to inspire."
– Po-Shen Loh, CMU Math Professor
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do
– attributed to Edmund Burke, 1776
"Edge cases are always important: in programming; in life."
"But, you don't make policies around edge cases;
you make policies for the nominal case and deal with the edge cases as the exceptions they are."
"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."
– George Bernard Shaw
"Show me how you drive, and I'll tell you who you are."
– Vin Diesel (as Dom Toretto) in Fast & Furious 6
"Age is a number; old (or young) is an attitude."
"A good exit is a quick one."
– Geoffrey Hitch, lecturing in Business Acting II, June, 2013
"The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue,
that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting."
– a favorite, always inspiring, passage from Isaiah 50:4-6
"This is wrong on so many levels, I need a whiteboard!"
"The problem with free speech is that it's hard, and self-censorship is the
path of least resistance.
But, once you learn to keep yourself from voicing unwelcome thoughts,
you forget how to think them — how to think freely at all — and ideas perish at conception.
– George Packer on the murders of Washiqur Rahman and Avijit Roy, quoted in The New Yorker, April 13, 2015
"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son."
– "If—" by Rudyard Kipling
"The job of clever people is to ask difficult questions.
The job of very clever people is to ask deceptively simple ones."
– article on Ronald Coase in The Economist, September 7, 2013
"Perfection is not attainable but, if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."
– Vince Lombardi (1933 graduate of St. Francis Prep in New York, my HS alma mater)
"Dance your best dance and let others dance theirs.
You cannot manage people for them to create knowledge or innovation.
You must let them dance their best dance to unveil their best potential, and innovation comes from there."
– Eva Chen, Trend Micro CEO, quoted in a CNN interview
"What made Nico (A. Nico Habermann, founding Dean of SCS) a great leader?
First, Nico was a man of principles and that was important.
Second, when Nico made a decision, he didn't just tell you the decision;
more importantly, he articulated the priniciples that inevitably led to that decision."
– Tom Mitchell, CMU Machine Learning Professor, giving the Habermann Lecture at CMU-Q, February 4, 2014
"We want only one thing — to be the best. What else is there?"
– Chrysler print ad, circa mid-1980's
"Chaotic good is more useful (and more interesting) than lawful good."
– me, inspired by Ian Voysey
"If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much room!"
– Dodge truck commercial
"The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people
who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over." – Hunter S. Thompson
"The people who get things done get more things to do."
"To win without risk is to triumph without glory."
– Pierre Corneille
"A room without books is like a body without a soul."
Rules in the School of Mark Stehlik:
(as told by David Kosbie, May 31, 2012)
(and then reiterated in an article in the Fall 2012 issue of "The Link", the CMU SCS newsletter)
1. Students come first, no matter what.
2. If you want people to work hard, you have to work harder
3. Attend to the whole student, not just their mind.
Corollary 1 — Mark's Teaching Axioms:
1. Be prepared! (do your homework beforehand)
(learning objectives drive assignments drive instructional strategies)
2. Know your students! (by name)
3. Be enthusiastic! (about the subject)
4. Be enthusiastic! (about teaching it)
5. Be enthusiastic! (about supporting their learning)
Corollary 2 — Mark's Advising Axioms:
1. Listen effectively
2. Be welcoming/open
3. Be non-judgmental/objective
4. Be honest
5. Be consistent
"The best way to lead is by example — it is far better to show people
what is expected than to tell them."
"If you are going to hold those around you to a standard, you have to hold
yourself to a higher standard."
"It is important to take what you do seriously, but it is equally
important not to take yourself too seriously.
"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though
checked by failures...
than to rank with those poorer spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much,
because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."
– Teddy Roosevelt
"Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning to dance
in the rain!"
– Vivian Greene
"Always do right; this will gratify some people and astonish the rest."
– Mark Twain
"There is no limit to what a man can achieve as long as he doesn't care who
gets the credit for it."
– attributed to Charles Edward Montague (and others)
"But the thing that makes a good life isn't constantly being saintly —
it's just continuing to do (stuff).
We spend so much time waiting to start to live."
– Quinn Norton on the death of Aaron Swartz, quoted in The New Yorker, March 11, 2013
"What makes someone a New Yorker? (posed to comedian Denis Leary):
'If the Popemobile happened to cut you off in traffic and you immediately gave it the finger, you, my friend, are a New Yorker.'"
– New York magazine, October 6, 2008
"True love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward
together in the same direction."
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
"Can't we give ourselves one more chance
Why can't we give love that one more chance
Why can't we give love, give love, give love, give love...
'Cause love's such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance...
This is ourselves
– from "Under Pressure" by David Bowie & Queen
Me (to Herb Simon, Nobel Prize winner, as we walked toward each other on campus
on a Saturday afternoon):
"Herb, what are you doing on campus? Today's not a work day."
Herb (to me): "If you love what you do, every day's a work day."
What a wonderful motto!
"Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only distaste,
it is better that you should leave your work
and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy."
– Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet: On Work
"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops."
– Henry Brooks Adams
"Education is not about the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire!"
– William Butler Yeats
"The mediocre teacher tells.
The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates.
The great teacher inspires."
– William A. Ward
"We look at people like Jack Pidgeon or the public school teacher who
stretched the envelope for 30 years as exceptions, as anachronisms, because
only the toughest can make a life of it. And that's the key. Teaching's not
a job, it's a life. It's a commitment for life to nurture life. It should not
be so much funded as held sacred. The fact that we count it as an
expense or that we have to run it like a business is a disgrace."
– David Conrad, writing on the occasion of Jack Pidgeon's retirement as Headmaster of the Kiski School,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 25, 2002
"Children succeed in classrooms where they are expected to succeed.
Schools work best when they operate with a clarity of mission: as places to
help students master complex academic material. When teachers demand rigorous
work, students often rise to the occasion, whereas tracking students at
different cognitive levels tends 'diminish learning and boost inequality'."
– The Economist, August 17, 2013, review of Amanda Ripley's book, The Smartest Kids in the World: and how they got that way
"There is a C in STEM. Nothing will happen in the S, the T, the E, or the M
without the C."
– Jan Cuny, NSF, at SIGCSE 2010
"It was clear to me that what Carnegie Mellon values in its faculty is
whether you have an impact.
They don't do anything silly like count your publications. What the school wants is for you to change the world."
– Dave Andersen, CS faculty, quoted in Carnegle Mellon Today (7/12)
"Teach your children other than that which you were taught; as they are created
for a time other than yours."
– HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, quoting Ali bin Abi Taleb, on the occasion of his transfer of power to his son, Sheikh Tamim, June 25, 2013
"I am convinced that...we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of
We must rapidly begin the shift from a 'thing-oriented' society to a 'person-oriented' society."
– Martin Luther King, Jr. (probably true now more than ever...)
"People cannot be taught about 'diversity'; they can only discover it through
– Everett Tademy, Director, Carnegie Mellon Equal Opportunity Services
"Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion."
– Georg Friedrich Hegel
"Find your passion first, job second."
– AT&T print advertisement
"To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded."
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
"...to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried
to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it..."
– something to aspire to from Ted Kennedy's eulogy for his brother, Bobby
"How is it that someone as a great a curmudgeon as you manages to
simultaneously be a ray of sunshine on a gloomy Pittsburgh day?"
– Katie Wilson, CS alum ('04)
"Good days, bad days, but never a boring day on this job. You do what God has
called you to do. You show up, you put one foot in front of the other, and
you do your job, which is a mystery and a surprise. You have no idea...what
God is calling you to. But he needs you, so keep going. Keep
supporting each other. Be kind to each other. Love each other. Work
together. You love the job. We all do. What a blessing that is."
– Fr. Mychal Judge, FDNY chaplain, rededicating a Bronx firehouse on 9/10/01,
24 hours before perishing at Ground Zero
from a very moving biography in the November 12, 2001 issue of New York Magazine
Of particular relevance as my parents enter their eighties...
"The simple view is that medicine exists to fight death and disease, and that is, of course, its most basic task. Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually it wins. And, in a war that you cannot win, you don't want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don't want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee, someone who knew how to fight for territory when he could and how to surrender when he couldn't, someone who understood that the damage is greatest if all you do is fight to the bitter end."
– from "Letting Go: What should medicine do when it can't save your life?",
an excellent article by Atul Gawande, M.D. in The New Yorker, August 2, 2010
"If you're not TOTALLY APPALLED, you're not paying attention!"
– bumper sticker (a wonderful motto for these past
four eight years [to be clear, the years in question
"When will we again have a President who says, Don't judge me by what I do for
those who have much but for what I can do for those who have little?"
– William vanden Heuvel speaking about F.D.R. in The New Yorker, August 15 & 22, 2011
"Gun-control advocates say the answer to gun violence is fewer guns.
Gun-rights advocates say that the answer is more guns: things would have gone
better, they suggest, if the faculty at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Chardon
High School had been armed. That is the logic of the concealed-carry movement;
that is how armed citizens have come to be patrolling the streets. That is not
how civilians live. When carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense is
understood not as a failure of civil society, to be mourned, but as an act of
citizenship, to be vaunted, there is little civilian life left."
– from "Battleground America",
an excellent article by Jill Lepore in The New Yorker, April 23, 2012
"The trouble with so much of the conservative critique of Obama's foreign
policy is that it cares less about outcomes than about the assertion of
America's power and the affirmation of its glory. In the case of Libya, Obama
led from a place of no glory and, in the eyes of his critics, no results could
ever vindicate such a strategy. Yet a calculated modesty can augment a
nation's true influence. Obama would not be the first statesman to realize
that it can be easier to win if you don't need to trumpet your victory."
– David Remnick editorial, The New Yorker, September 5, 2011
"The damage visited upon America, and upon America's standing in the world, by
the Bush Administration's reckless mis-handling of the public trust will not
easily be undone....
Pollsters like to ask voters which candidate [Bush or Kerry] they'd most like to have a beer with, and on that metric Bush always wins. We prefer to ask which candidate is better suited to the governance of our nation."
– editorial, The New Yorker, November 1, 2004
"A gangly Illinois politician whom 'the base' would today label a RINO—a
Republican in Name Only—once pointed out that you can fool some of the
people all of the time. We now know how many 'some' is: twenty-seven per
cent. That's the proportion of Americans who, according to CNN, cling to the
belief that George W. Bush has done a good job. The wonder is that this
number is still in the double digits, given the comprehensively disastrous
record. During the eight years of the second President Bush, the unemployment
rate went from 4.2 per cent to 7.2 per cent and climbing; consumer confidence
dropped to an all-time low; a budget surplus of two hundred billion dollars
became a deficit of that plus a trillion; more than a million families fell
into poverty; the ranks of those without health insurance rose by six million;
and the fruits of the nation's economic growth went almost entirely to the
rich, while family incomes in the middle and below declined. What role the
Bush Administration's downgrading of terrorism as a foreign-policy priority
played in the success of the 9/11 attacks cannot be known, but there is no
doubting its responsibility for the launching and mismanagement of the
unprovoked war in Iraq, with all its attendant suffering; for allowing the
justified war in Afghanistan to slide to the edge of defeat; and for the
vertiginous worldwide decline of America's influence, prestige, power, and
– editorial, The New Yorker, January 19, 2009
"The familiar arguments against the death penalty apply to cases like his
[Moussaoui's], some with special force. Whether or not the prospect of lethal
injection deters ordinary murder—a questionable proposition at
best—it is perverse to imagine that it can deter the sort of murder of
which faith-based ritual suicide is an integral part. And any execution,
whatever the crime it is intended to punish, degrades the society that decrees
it and demoralizes the particular government employees who are assigned to
carry it out. A criminal may deserve to die, may deserve even to die in
terror and agony; but no civil servant deserves to be made to participate in
the premeditated killing of another person, however wicked...
The trial and punishment of any international terrorist occurs in a global political context that darkens another of the stains on capital punishment: the company it keeps. In 2005, according to Amnesty International, ninety-four percent of all known executions took place in four countries. One, China, is a Communist Party dictatorship. Two others, Iran and Saudi Arabia, are Islamist autocracies. The fourth is the United States."
– editorial, The New Yorker, May 15, 2006
"What followed was a drama of redemptive, liberating settlement on one side
and catastrophic dispossession on the other—all of it taking place on a
patch of desert land too small for easy division and too imbued with
historical and holy claims for rational negotiation. For the Jews in
Palestine, Zionism was a movement of national liberation after untold
suffering; for the Arabs, Zionism was an intolerable assault by the colonial
West against sacred ground and Islam itself. Even now, more than a century
later, politicians and scholars alike quickly betray prejudices, passions, and
allegiances in the details they select when relating the saga that led to the
U.N. Partition Plan, on November 29, 1947, and the war that began just hours
– the best one-paragraph summary of the Israel-Palestine conflict I've come across
from David Remnick's review of Benny Morris's book, "1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War",
The New Yorker, May 5, 2008
Mark in a kilt! The result of "winning" an April, 1998 Lambda Sigma (sophomore honor society) "vote-to-see-a-faculty-member-in-a-kilt" fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. For the latest in commencement fashion, check out the full-color Commencement kilts!
All this kilt wearing has sparked a trend in costumed faculty. Check out Klaus Sutner in Fall, 1999!
Even President Cohon has gotten into the act in Spring, 2002 (due, in large part, to some concerted ballot-stuffing on the part of costumed-out CS faculty)!
I, too, can get in costume for a good cause, in this case, Mortar Board's Fall, 2003 charity fundraiser.
In Spring, 2008, I was in Qatar (!) at our campus in Doha, teaching the first half of 15-123 to our class of CS sophomores. I also taught a mini-semester version of Tom Cortina's successful Principles of Computation course to the freshmen, numbered 15-103, as well as a mini-semester course in Web Apps, 15-337, to the juniors.
I have been involved in the Advanced Placement Computer Science program (I was Chief Reader from 1994 to 1999). See my Advanced Placement Computer Science page for information on the exam, its curriculum, and teaching resources.
I am a co-author of Karel++: A Gentle Introduction to the Art of Object-Oriented Programming. Another of the co-authors, Joe Bergin, now has a Java-like version of Karel called Karel J. Robot. Check it out!
Erdös number — my Erdös number is 3; its geneology:
Related Computer Science links (includes a list of professional societies and other interesting organizations (including the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates program), CS publishers, etc.).
Maps of the campus area and directions to Pittsburgh
Having fun in Pittsburgh [check out local news and the local weather forecast]
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