SIGCSE: The Beginning
Reflections on SIGCSE
From the Past 30 Years
Susan H. Rodger, Duke University
Imagine attending a conference and going to a lunch that would change the direction of your life. That was me at
SIGCSE 1994 finding out about a new teaching position.
Since 1993, I have attended every SIGCSE Symposium and
many other SIGCSE conferences; they have impacted my
life in many ways. I have met colleagues, integrated ideas
I learned into my teaching, and even changed the direction
of my career from tenure-track research to teaching-track
focused on computer science education. In what follows
I reminisce about my experiences with SIGCSE and its
impact on me over the past 30 years.
AN EARLY CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH SIGCSE
My first encounter with SIGCSE was in 1989, but I didn’t attend any of the sessions and didn’t realize until later what I had
missed. At the time, I was a graduate student at Purdue finishing my PhD and looking for a faculty position. With a two-body problem I was considering both research and teaching
positions. Teaching positions at that time meant teaching at a
4-year college. I did not know of any such positions at research
institutions. I heard about the 1989 ACM Conference on Computer Science that was held in Louisville, KY, close to Purdue.
At the time, the conference was a general computer science research conference held in conjunction with the SIGCSE Symposium. SIGCSE had interview booths for teaching positions.
I came just for the interviews, interviewing with several small
colleges. I was nervous about the interviews and did not attend
any of the conference. I would not go back to the SIGCSE Symposium for several years.
MY FIRST TEACHING POSITION
In Fall 1989, I started an Assistant Professor position at Rensse-
laer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). At RPI, I taught my own class
for the first time and fell in love with teaching. RPI had decided
that they would create a two-course sequence that weaved to-
gether the CS 2 course (data structures and analysis) with an
automata theory course. The idea was to teach automata the-
ory with related programming assignments and corresponding
data structures. The CS Department gave this task to two of
its new hires, Ellen Walker and me. Immediately I wanted to
help students use software to visualize and experiment with
theoretical concepts. I worked with students to develop soft-
ware for visualizing automata theory concepts and for visualiz-
ing algorithms and data structures. In March 1992 I presented
a software tool for pushdown automata at my first Computer
Science Education (CSED) conference, the DIMACS workshop
on Computational Support for Discrete Mathematics [ 6]. I met
Figure 1: Learning Scratch at SIGCSE 2008 Kid’s Camp.