Geneseo receives funding for computer sciences

The SUNY system recently approved $249,000 in funding for Geneseo to attract faculty in the area of integrative computational analysis. SUNY approved the funding this spring semester—the funding was originally proposed by Geneseo’s Provost Office in fall 2015. The grant will help fund three to five new faculty members in different departments who use ICA.

According to Assistant Director and Manager for Systems and Networking and Research Technologist Kirk Anne, ICA primarily deals with the use of computers in organizing data for further analysis. “It’s the application of computational techniques, so it’s not necessarily programming,” he said. “It may be using R, it may be using geographic information systems. It may be using databases, it may be using image processing.”

According to Anne, Geneseo is adding faculty with computational experience to offset the loss of the computer science major in 2010. “When the computer science department was disbanded, we lost our computer science capabilities,” he said. “One of the things that we have found is that computation is becoming an integral part of many different things, even in things you wouldn’t think of, like anthropology, English, history and things like that. So, the use of computers and integrating computational methods in various disciplines—since we don’t have a computer science department—needs to be done somehow, some way.”

Interim Assistant Provost Kenneth Kallio described the use of a hiring technique called “cluster hiring” in the current process. “What a cluster is, is basically what you might call a group of positions that all have something in common but are in different departments,” he said. “The idea is that if you hire in people with common interests across disciplines at approximately the same time and provide opportunities for them to collaborate, then that can lead to a variety of benefits for the institution and for students.”

Geneseo used cluster hiring in the past to hire faculty in Latin American studies and applied statistical analysis. Kallio pointed to those cluster hires from 2014 to demonstrate the efficacy of the technique, noting that the Latin American studies cluster has “focused on student enrichment of awareness [of the depth of] Latin American studies.”

“The statistics cluster is collaborating on the first true advanced statistics course with the cross collaboration of the three faculty members,” he added.

So far, the hiring for Geneseo’s ICA cluster appears to be in the early stages. There is currently one confirmed hire: professor of medieval history Yvonne Seale. “She’s a medieval European historian, but what she does in studying medieval Europe is that she applies very interesting tools that help her reconstruct and reimagine life in medieval Europe,” Kallio said. Seale will begin teaching classes in fall 2016.

Other than Seale, Geneseo is looking to hire at least three other faculty members for ICA. According to Kallio, searches are underway in areas of ecology, genetics in biology and finance. “It turns out we have a potential hire in mathematics who actually kind of fits as well, even though he wasn’t part of the original cluster,” he said.

The process of hiring new faculty and evaluating them is likely to continue over the coming months and years. Anne provided his perspective on how cluster hiring in ICA works.

“This is a way to sort of put it in he field, closer to the discipline such that it’s more integrated, going closer to our liberal arts education model,” he said. “It’s an interdisciplinary fusion of different techniques for doing things.”