My SIGCSE: Reflections of a
Briana B. Morrison, University of Nebraska at Omaha
Iwill never forget my first SIGCSE Conference—1999, New Orleans. My first was supposed to be in 1998 in my home
town of Atlanta, but I had given birth to my second child a week
before the conference was scheduled. That year didn’t work out,
but due to my department chair’s encouragement I tentatively
went in 1999. Now here I was, standing in the registration line
alongside the authors of the textbooks I was using in class! Who
could have predicted what followed—that one conference led
to a career change, new research trajectory, lifelong friends,
and an organization that I consider my community of practice.
I transitioned to academia from industry. I was a non-tenure track
instructor, teaching at a technical university because it allowed me
a flexible schedule to spend time with my children. It was just a
temporary gig until I went back to industry. My department chair
encouraged me to explore the current research in teaching computer science, to see what others were doing to help their students
succeed. He suggested I attend the SIGCSE Technical Symposium
(TS) and learn from the experts. At my first TS, I found what I was
looking for and so much more. I learned about language choices,
lab assignments, and pedagogical techniques. I met the most incredibly friendly and helpful people, who were not at all like the
arrogant academics I had been warned about. I had a wonderful
time and left rejuvenated and excited to continue teaching.
That single experience—attending the Technical Symposium in 1999—changed my view of computer science education
forever. I realized that others were exploring how to improve
computing education and making it accessible to students beyond computing majors. I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted
to be a proud, contributing member of that group.
Because I joined SIGCSE and the listserv, I kept current on CS
education discussions and read about opportunities for summer
workshops and ways to further my knowledge. Through one of
those announcements in 2003 I found out about an NSF sponsored
project, Bootstrapping Research in Computer Science Education.
That project changed my entire professional life. It was through that
project that I discovered research in computer science education,
and that I could do that research. Because of SIGCSE and the Boot-
strapping project, I decided to pursue a PhD in Computer Science
Education and contribute to the research discourse. I was no longer
satisfied just teaching, I wanted to research why students learned
the way they did and what could be done to help them succeed. I
knew that SIGCSE was my community to host these discussions.
Since 2003, I have attended every SIGCSE Technical Sympo-
sium except 2013 in Denver. I missed Denver because it was one
week before qualifying exams for my PhD. While I really want-
ed to attend, I made the difficult decision to stay home and con-
tinue studying but followed everything on Twitter! Every year I
look forward to seeing longtime friends and catching up. I look
forward to having my brain stimulated with new ideas, fresh
perspectives, and learning what others are doing to improve
computer science education. I never fail to leave the Sympo-
sium with several ideas that I can’t wait to try in the classroom.
I present my own research now and discuss the implications
with others. I can literally “see” the discipline moving forward!
Yet I have also learned that SIGCSE is so much more than just the
TS. I’ve been to ITiCSE once and ICER several times. I have served
as a volunteer for the organization—as a reviewer, conference help,
and now Board Member-At-Large. Through volunteering, I contin-
ually meet amazing people, all of whom care deeply about computer
science education and sacrifice time and energy for that cause. I am
pleased to give back to the organization that has given me so much.
There is no measure for the impact that the SIGCSE organization
has had on my life. It opened my eyes to a new professional path
that I had not considered possible, and now I am happily journeying
down that path. I am exceptionally proud to be a SIGCSE member;
proud of the accomplishments of the organization and excited for
its very bright future. The next 50 years are going to be incredible.
If attending the TS inspires you in your teaching, why not
invite a friend next year? Are your colleagues SIGCSE members? Perhaps that invitation from you might just result in a life
changing event, just as SIGCSE forever changed my life.
Briana B. Morrison
Department of Computer Science
College of IS&T
University of Nebraska at Omaha
6001 Dodge Street, PKI 172
Omaha, NE 68182-01162
DOI: 10.1145/3230688 Copyright held by author/owner. Publication rights licensed to ACM.