Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS)



Dr. Maria Klawe: Distinguished, Celebrated, World-Renowned Computer Scientist, President of HMC, Board Director Microsoft Corp, Speaker at the World CIO Forum

This week, Stephen Ibaraki has an exclusive interview with Dr. Maria Klawe.

Dr. Maria KlaweHarvey Mudd College is led by Maria Klawe, HMC's fifth president who began her tenure in 2006. A renowned computer scientist and scholar, President Klawe is the first woman to lead the college since its founding in 1955. Prior to joining HMC, she served as Dean of Engineering and Professor of Computer Science at Princeton University. During her time at Princeton, Maria led the School of Engineering and Applied Science through a strategic planning exercise that created an exciting and widely embraced vision for the school. At Harvey Mudd College, she led a similarly ambitious strategic planning initiative, "HMC 2020: Envisioning the Future."

Maria joined Princeton from the University of British Columbia where she served as Dean of Science from 1998 to 2002, Vice President of Student and Academic Services from 1995 to 1998, and head of the Department of Computer Science from 1988 to 1995. Prior to UBC, Maria spent eight years with IBM Research in California, and two years at the University of Toronto. She received her B.Sc. (1973) and Ph.D. (1977) in Mathematics from the University of Alberta. Maria has made significant research contributions in several areas of mathematics and computer science including functional analysis, discrete mathematics, theoretical computer science, human-computer interaction, gender issues in information technology, and interactive-multimedia for mathematics education.

Her current research focuses on the development and use of multi-modal applications to assist people with aphasia and other cognitive impairments. Maria is a past President of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) in New York and a trustee of the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics in Los Angeles and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley. In the past Maria has held leadership positions with the American Mathematical Society, the Computing Research Association, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and the Canadian Mathematical Society.

Maria is one of the 10 members of the board of Microsoft Corporation, a board member of the nonprofit Math for America, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and past chair of the board for the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology in Palo Alto, CA. She was elected as a fellow of the Association of Computing Machinery in 1996 and as a founding fellow of the Canadian Information Processing Society in 2006. Other awards include Vancouver YWCA Women of Distinction Award in Science and Technology (1997), Wired Woman Pioneer (2001), Canadian New Media Educator of the Year (2001), BC Science Council Champion of the Year (2001), University of Alberta Distinguished Alumna (2003), Nico Habermann Award (2004), and honorary doctorates from Acadia University (2006), Dalhousie University (2005), Queen's University (2004), the University of Waterloo (2003) and Ryerson University (2001).

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Managers Connection (IMC) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.


Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:54: Can you profile the World CIO Forum or WCF and your role with the WCF? [Editor's note: For more information go to:]
"....I'm giving a keynote there and talking about how we attract, retain and advance more women as information technology professionals....I think this is a tremendous opportunity to get the word out to the CIOs around the world...."

:01:32: In your view, why should CIOs, senior executives, government and industry leaders participate in the World CIO Forum?
"....I think this is an opportunity for leaders from around the world to really get together and share insight. It's also a wonderful opportunity for networking. One of the things that I've learned in my life is there is probably almost nothing more important than getting to know people who can help leverage what you are doing...."

:02:41: What do hope at accomplish at the WCF?
"....This issue about women in computing and in Information Technology....Raising people's awareness of Harvey Mudd College and what an amazing institution we are....Networking, networking, networking...."

:03:36: You attend a lot of conferences and there's typically a senior executive or leader who is providing the keynote. If you were to hold a conference, who would be on your shortlist of recommendations as an opening keynote?
"....There are some absolutely not surprising possibilities....We are living through the age of when information technology is truly transforming the world so there are lots of people who have had a vision and who have been able to execute and literally have had a huge change to the human experience...."

:06:08: On March 28th, noted computing pioneer Kelly Gotlieb gave a special lecture at the University of Toronto in celebration of his 90th birthday which was followed by a reception and dinner in honour of this giant in computing. You have known Kelly many years; can you share two or more stories about this legendary pioneer?
"....For well over a decade Kelly chaired the awards committee for ACM and I ended up going on the Turing Awards selection committee for about five years. One of the things I think about the awards is that there is this wonderful awards committee chaired by Kelly and now co-chaired with Jim Horning – the wisdom of Kelly is really quite amazing in the decisions that have been made over time in terms of elevating the importance of the Turing Award and thinking about how it should be awarded and those kinds of things...."

:08:11: You are nominated to the Broadcom Board. Can you describe the experience, process, insights, and outcomes from this latest honour?
"....I'm not elected yet....One of the things I love doing in life is to find a group of people who have shared interests in making a difference in the world and Broadcom is certainly one of those companies....I know I'm going to learn an enormous amount if I do join the Board so I'm thrilled with this opportunity...."

:10:54: The last time we chatted, you were invited to the Microsoft Board of Directors. Can you describe your experiences as a Microsoft Board Director?
"....One of the best learning opportunities of my life – ever....I find the quality of people in the company quite extraordinary and I also find the quality of people on the board extraordinary. I feel like I'm taking a crash course in learning about the IT industry broadly conceived and I'm also taking a crash course in learning about how to be a good director of a corporate board. I've been very lucky and I feel like I've had a lot of people giving me very good advice and I'm enjoying it enormously...."

:12:35: How will your Board positions impact your many roles into the future? Can you provide specific examples?
"....I am much better informed and it really helps me understand applications of Science and Engineering in industry in ways that I wouldn't normally have been able to do....It opens doors. There's no question that as a member of the board at Microsoft, people are more interesting in talking to me....You become visible as a potential board member for other companies...."

:16:56: You are well into your college Presidency at Harvey Mudd College. What are the most urgent issues you dealing with?
"....We are just not well enough known....It's expensive to provide the kind of education that Harvey Mudd College does....Focusing on the diversity of our student body...."

:21:08: Further inroads are being made at Harvey Mudd College. Dr. Klawe spotlights three success stories.
"....The first one is the computer science department....The second one is revision to our core curriculum....The final one is the fact that we've just recruited a new Vice President for Advancement, Dan Macaluso...."

:29:47: What do you hope to accomplish in the next 5 years at HMC and how will you bring this about?
"....To increase the number of African American students....In terms of visibility, I've already mentioned Dan Macaluso and I'm very excited about this opportunity to work together....Recruiting new members for our Board of Trustees....Building our new Teaching and Learning Building...."

:34:24: Where do you see the education sector heading?
"....It's all a question of how you weigh the value of somebody who is doing a great job of teaching or creating a learning community for the students that they're working with versus somebody who is a great researcher – there just needs to be a better balance there. One of the things that I continue to stress and one of the reasons I'm proud to be at Harvey Mudd College is I think we are a great example of a place that gets the balance right...."

:35:17: What needs to be fixed in education and how do you propose this be done?
"....K to 12 education – the biggest issues are giving the teachers the support, recognition and the training that they need, and providing salaries that can attract and retain really good teachers....In terms of undergraduate education I would say the biggest thing is helping our faculties become better teachers. Most faculty who are teaching would like to succeed in that but there's just not enough emphasis on helping faculty to develop in those areas...."

:37:02: Can you describe three of your board positions, your most difficult challenges and opportunities with each role, and how the strategic goals of the three organizations will be achieved?
"....Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology – the organization that runs the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing....Mathematical Research Institute of Berkeley which is the pre-eminent research center for mathematics around the world....Math for America, which is an organization founded by Jim Simons in New York to attract people who are very talented in mathematics, who have the people and organizational skills to become great high school teachers, and to help them get their Master's degree in Education and mentor and support them and give them an additional stipend in exchange for professional development for the first four years in their profession...."

:42:32: I think it is pretty clear to the audience that you do so much in terms of societal contributions and a lot of that is volunteer work. Where do you see volunteerism in the future – what are your recommendations for the audience?
"....I tell my students at all ages that it's never too soon to start changing the world and the easiest way to do it initially is at the early stages of your career as a volunteer. It's a wonderful way to connect with other people who care about similar issues and to leverage each other in terms of achieving things you want to have happen...."

:43:57: Please make predictions for the future, their implications, and how we can best prepare?
"....None of these is going to be surprising in the least....The importance of innovation....The global economy....The extent that information technology is changing the world...."

:45:42: If you were conducting this interview, what 3 questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?
"....Why do I love being at Harvey Mudd College?....What makes me excited about being a computer scientist?....What have I learned recently?...."