The School of Computer Science turns 25 this year. Although SCS is the youngest of CMU's seven colleges, its history stretches back to the 1950s, and is intertwined with our other colleges and schools, including CIT, MCS and Tepper.
As a result, our events for computer science alumni are an interesting mix of people--many of the alumni who attend are undergraduate or graduate alumni from the 1990s and 2000s, but often we get people who graduated in the 1970s or '80s with a "math-CS" degree.
At our March 24 alumni brunch in Austin, Texas, I met a 1967 CIT electrical engineering alumnus from San Antonio who had been a member of what was then called the "digital circuits" group (as opposed to the "analog circuits" group).
The computer science department was only two years old at that point, and it only granted graduate degrees. As our alum was recounting it, the "digital circuits" group was more "computer-y," and therefore he considers himself part of SCS. (The distinction between "digital circuits" and "analog circuits" was eliminated the following year, he told us.)
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It's really rewarding to hear those kinds of stories. When our alumni get together, we hear a lot of different professional experiences as well as different life experiences. I've now been privileged to serve as the SCS alumni director for 13 years, and I've been fortunate to watch our alumni grow both professionally and personally. It's amazing to meet someone as a new undergraduate, see them wrap up a Ph.D., and then return to an alumni event with their spouse and children.
By the way: Most of our events are family-friendly. We've had events at science centers and art museums, as well as boat cruises and barbecues by the ocean.
Usually, both SCS dean Randy Bryant and ECE department head Ed Schlesinger attend our events, but we also have special faculty speakers. In Austin, we hosted Onur Mutlu, CMU's Dr. William D. and Nancy W. Strecker Early Career Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Onur gave a very accessible talk about his current research in computer architecture and industry partnerships that was interesting and well received.
Generally speaking, when our alumni attend events, they have a lot of questions--have there been changes in classes or courses? Do they still have 15-212 and 15-213? What new faculty have we added? Who's still there?
But other times, they really just want to enjoy some "face time" with one another and say, "Hey, how have you been, I haven't seen you since then." These days, they're likely to be connected through professional organizations or through social media networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc., but they're always looking to grow their connections. So many of them are working on start-ups or hiring people for their businesses that alumni connections are a fast way for them to reach out and find qualified people.
Incidentally, that's one of the reasons we invite and encourage current CMU students to attend our summer events. If they haven't graduated yet, students don't always understand why alumni associations are important. We like to get current students involved so that they can meet our graduates and say, "Hey, this is a really diverse group, a cool bunch of people, who do a lot of different things."
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These days, we're also connecting alumni with prospective students who are thinking about attending CMU. For the past few years, we've held receptions in the San Francisco Bay area for high school students who have been accepted to CMU but haven't yet decided to attend. We encourage them to talk to recent graduates about what the student experience is like, and think about what it would be like to attend SCS. (Of course, we want them to choose CMU--if it's appropriate to them.)
We do the same thing for prospective graduate students--connecting them to recent Ph.D. alums, encouraging them to ask questions such as what was CMU like, what faculty did you work with, and how did you choose your career path. (Incidentally, if you're looking for a way to volunteer for an alumni event that's fun and mutually beneficial, this is a nice way to do it. Email me and we'll connect you with someone.)
As the School of Computer Science enters its second quarter-century, we're starting to develop "legacies"--students who are now the second generation of their family to attend SCS. Fostering these legacies will be important to maintaining and expanding our tradition of excellence.
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OK, so what's new? By now, you should have received two installments of our new alumni e-newsletter, "Bytesize." If you haven't, make sure to register in CMU's online alumni community, or at least send me your current email address. We know you get a lot of email, so we're trying not to spam you--and that's why we've kept "Bytesize"— well, bite-size.
What else? By the time you read this, our LinkedIn community should be up and running. With this new addition, you'll be able to connect with the SCS community on four major media platforms--Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. That should leave us pretty well covered (until one of our alumni invents another social media technology).
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As always, your feedback makes a big difference when we're planning new events and services for our alumni. Do you have an idea, a suggestion or a comment? Please drop me a line. And I look forward to hearing your stories the next time we're in your town!
Tina M. Carr (HNZ'02)
Director of Alumni Relations