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Faculty Interview: Dr. Marie desJardins

desjardins_bDr. Marie desJardins, featured Honors College faculty tells us about why she loves teaching at the UMBC Honors College. Dr. desJardins recently was appointed co-chair of the AAAI, the North American Conference on Artificial Intelligence.
Title: Professor
Columbia, Maryland

Favorite thing about UMBC: The intellectual and individual diversity of the students and faculty.

Favorite thing about the Honors College: The emphasis on building a community of scholars through critical thinking, writing, and lively debate.

Favorite Honors College Class That You Taught: Honors Seminar: Computation, Complexity, and Emergence. I love seeing how the very disparate group of students from all majors share their individual perspective’s, and learn to see the world through the lens of complexity — I think it can really change how students think, and makes them realize that topics they thought were “outside their interests” might have a lot that is relevant to their lives.

Advice that you would give to incoming Honors College Students: For Honors College students specifically, I would say to really appreciate and take advantage of the amazing community of student and faculty scholars that you’ve become part of. Don’t be afraid to speak up and share your perspectives, and get to know your professors!

Here are my top ten tips for *all* students:

10. Understand the academic integrity code, and DO NOT cheat or plagiarize
9. Get to know your professors
8. Get to know your fellow students
7. Find an extracurricular activity that energizes you
6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions (inside and outside of class)
5. Manage your time wisely — buy an organizer and use it!!
4. Get enough sleep
3. Read the syllabus IN EVERY CLASS
1. Go to class – EVERY DAY

How has being a faculty member at UMBC prepared you to be co-chair of the AAAI-13 conference? AAAI is the main North American conference on artificial intelligence. It’s one of the most important and broadest AI conferences, and attracts researchers and students from around the world to present their work and share their ideas.

I’ve taken on increasingly high-level leadership positions at UMBC over the last 11 years — starting as a junior faculty member, then an active member of committees within and outside the department, then the Undergraduate Program Director for Computer Science, and finally last year the Chair of the Faculty Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate. Through those activities, I’ve learned to “see the big picture,” to be meticulously organized and structured, and to effectively delegate the right tasks to the right people. I’ve built up an international network of other AI researchers, which will help me to recruit those “right people” and understand their diverse perspectives on “what matters in AI.”

I’ve also mentored an enormous number of students in my lab (11 PhD students, 25 MS students, and nearly 50 undergraduate researchers). In addition to the “management skills” I’ve had to develop to accomplish all of that mentoring, I think I’ve built up a good understanding of the “student perspective” on big conferences, which should help me to develop some new programs and social activities that will benefit the students in building their own community.