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Staff Fast Facts: Professor Alan Broder, Chair of Computer Science

Professor Alan Broder has taught Computer Science at Stern College for Women since 2013, and is chair of the department. In 2017 he was awarded the Dean Karen Bacon award for teaching excellence. Professor Broder is an expert Computer Scientist, with decades of experience in supercomputing and advanced algorithms for strategic analytics. He is a recognized expert in entity resolution technologies, and has architected and led the development and successful deployment of several massive-scale custom parallel and distributed data mining systems.

Before coming to Stern, in 1996 he founded White Oak Technologies, Inc., a Washington, DC area firm, and he served as Fellow and Chairman of the Board of its successor firm, Novetta Solutions, until 2015.  He has been an invited speaker at the technical conferences of the Global Maritime Forum, Association of Computing Machinery, Association of Government Accountants, and AFCEA, and his research has been published in refereed journals and books. In 2014 he was appointed by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Charles Johnson, serving a three year term on the Department’s Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee.

 

1. What profession did you think you would hold when you were in school?

Since my childhood, there was never any doubt that I would end up in a career in Computer Science, and ultimately teaching. Very few people of my generation can say they are second generation Computer Scientists. My father is a Computer Science technology pioneer and educator, and so my earliest and most vivid memories as a young child are of wandering the halls of university computing centers, watching the lights and spinning tapes of mainframe computers, and playing with keypunch machines. It is little wonder, then, that I turned to Computer Science in college and later in my professional career.

 

2. What aspect of your job with YU do you most enjoy?

When I first started teaching at Stern, one of the most rewarding parts was working with students who’d never even considered Computer Science as a possible career path. It was incredible to see students in other majors make it through my introductory CS course with the realization that this was a field they could master and truly enjoy. But now that I’ve been at Stern for a number of years, I have the added nachas of seeing my students find their places at amazing internships and then great jobs and graduate schools after graduation.

Since the beginning of the program, Stern CS students have been notable for their dedication and sacrifice to help other women at Stern and elsewhere find their way in the field. Our students run an extremely active Association of Computing Machinery Women’s chapter, with an emphasis on sharing knowledge and helping their college peers. Our students have also been judges at area high school hackathons, have organized city-wide coding programs for high school girls, and have helped local girls high schools organize their CS teaching. I’m very proud that our students are so committed to learning and to helping other women learn CS too.

 

3. How has your past work experience prepared you for your current position?

I’ve spent most of my career as a professional Computer Scientist, building software, and then leading larger and larger organizations to build and deploy sophisticated technologies. As I frequently tell my students, you can be the greatest software developer in the world, but if you are unable to communicate to others the intent of your design and implementation, then your work will ultimately fail or be discarded. My years of honing my professional and communication skills in industry enrich and inform my approach to teaching.

Most of our students intend to find jobs in industry after graduation, or after obtaining a Masters degree. While running my software company, I interviewed hundreds of Computer Scientists for jobs, and we had a reputation for being very selective. My tech recruiting experience enables me to help prepare Stern students for the very competitive  interview processes of today’s top technology employers. For example, in my Data Structures course, I will frequently alert students that a topic will come up as an interview question. Many students have thanked me for this emphasis and were better prepared when those very topics were raised on interviews!

 

4. What are some of your goals for the Computer Science Department and what progress have you made?

My goals for the CS department are to expand the department faculty, grow the number of students majoring or minoring in CS, and broaden the offered courses. We are making great progress in all these areas. Since the CS major was established we have added another full-time faculty member, and we are in the process of recruiting an additional professor. Our newest addition, Prof Joshua Waxman has added a course in Natural Language Processing. We’ve also cultivated relationships with industry leaders who agree to come and teach courses as adjunct faculty. For example, Ari Shamash who works at Google is teaching Computer Systems at Stern for his second year. His unique perspective as a senior technologist in a leading company enhances our program. Regarding students, there are now almost 30 students majoring in CS at Stern. As our reputation grows, and our courses, faculty, and facilities improve, we hope to be able to further grow the number of students majoring in CS.

 

5. What would your colleagues be surprised to learn about you?

It is probably no longer a surprise to most of my colleagues that I have the distinction at YU of having the farthest commute to the school – since I live in Maryland!