STEM+Arts Career Profile – Cheryl A. Swanier, PhD, EdD

Cheryl Swanier, PhD, EdD


Cheryl A. Swanier, PhD, EdD
Current: Henry N. and Alice Carson Tisdale Endowed Professor & Chair
Department of Mathematics & Computer Science
School of Natural Sciences & Mathematics



iUT: What is your common mantle as a Ph.D in Computer Science?

CAS: My research focuses on identifying and developing strategies for reuse, which will facilitate novice programmers to create simulations.  This work is realized with end user programming/visual programming techniques, and reduces the cognitive baggage of having to first learn to program to attain this goal.

My research will be in the area of End User Programming, a subset of Human Computer Interaction that is a combination of Human Centric Computing, Visual Programming Environments, and Empirical Studies of Programmers.  Empirical Studies of programmers normally studies the programming habits of expert programmers, but my approach is looking at novice programmers.  The novice programmers group that I will be studying will be high school math teachers.  I am looking to create a framework to support their programming of educational simulations with direct manipulation and other visual programming techniques.

iUT: What are many of the educational requirements to become a Ph.D in this profession, such as courses?

CAS: Educational requirements for a PhD in Computer Science varies depending on the school that you attend. However, some of the common courses includes Analysis of Algorithms, Operating Systems, Automata Theory, Networks, Advanced Data Structures, and more.


iUT: What was the best advice or support you were given when you were working towards your position?

CAS: The best advice that I was given was to “Never, never, never, never, give up!” The best support was given my dissertation advisor. She supported throughout the entire process despite the challenges that I faced.


iUT: What are qualities you already acquired for your job? What were some you had to work to gain?

CAS: Qualities that I already had were commitment, dedication, integrity, honesty, and tenaciousness. I had to gain leadership qualities.

iUT: What are qualities anybody will need to have success in their future?

CAS: Qualities that are needed to have success include commitment, dedication, integrity, honesty, leadership, and more.

iUT: What is a personal pro from your job?

CAS: One personal pro from my job is flexibility. I am able to be creative and innovative. In addition, Teachers offer the opportunity to help shape the future by stimulating the minds of the workforce of tomorrow.  In my pursuit of more formal education, I attended Albany State University and received a degree in Computer Science.  In preparation for teaching computer science, my educational foundation consists of a broad base of fundamental computing.  Also, I received a M.S. at the State University of New York at Binghamton and an Ed.D. at Auburn University, Auburn Alabama.  In addition, I received teacher certification in mathematics education from Columbus State University, Columbus, Georgia.  I am currently hold a computer science Ph.D. from Auburn University.  I have been exposed to many different types of teaching strategies and styles.  Drawing from this diverse experience gives me a unique opportunity to understand why not just teaching, but “Good teaching” by teachers who care about their students is very important.

iUT: How has your job and the skills you have enabled from it benefited your everyday life?

CAS: My job and the skills that I possess have given me the opportunity to share my skills through outreach initiatives by working with youth from underrepresented groups to teach them how to code. In addition to teaching, I believe that mentoring is very valuable for a student’s success.  In computer science and engineering programs, there are proportionately fewer women and minorities in these areas, and I would hope to begin or to contribute to ongoing efforts of building support networks to recruit and improve the success rate of these students.  During all of my computer science studies, I can only remember one woman that I had as an instructor, which at times was discouraging. My goal as a teacher is not just to lecture, but also to inspire enthusiasm, get students to actively participate in their education, and facilitate their learning with proper educational scaffolding.  I believe that with adequate support that almost any student that really applies themselves with the proper support structure can be successful.

iUT: What gave you the motivation/ interest to work as a computer scientist and when?

CAS: Initially, I was a math major when I went to college and my advisor encourage me during my freshman year to change it to computer science since it was a promising career.

****Bio and pic of student reporter****Mariah Mckenzie is a 14 year-old 8th grader that attends Parkrose Middle School. Mariah is an avid reader who loves to write poems, draw and enjoy the outdoors. Mariah is a gymnast, plays trumpet in the PMS honor band, is a year-round Rockwood library volunteer and a student council representative.