Submitted by Ellen Small Davis on December 10, 2014 – 7:15 pm
Twenty-six years after teaching her first basic computer course, Dr. Ethel Schuster of Andover, is still teaching classes in the ever-evolving field of computer and information science (CIS), from applications to programming to security and web design.
“I love teaching all the CIS classes,” says Schuster. “I especially enjoy classes that are hands-on, where I can watch the students get that ‘Aha!’ moment or say, ‘I got it to work!’”
Schuster worked as a computer programmer for two years after graduating from Brandeis University with a bachelor’s in computer science. After that, she went on to earn both a master’s and PhD in computer and information science from the University of Pennsylvania.
A lover of math, logic, and languages, Schuster comes to CIS via computational linguistics, which was the focus of her graduate work. She examined how humans process language and then reproduce those processes with computers.
“This interdisciplinary field was perfectly suited for me because it combined philosophy, linguistics, computer science, and psychology,” she says.
The Colombian native brings her diverse skillset to the CIS classroom to train tomorrow’s CIS leaders, in particular women and underrepresented populations.
“I love teaching people to think…I feel accomplished when I watch my students succeed at getting problems solved…when suddenly their programs do what they wanted and expected them to do,” she says.
Currently, there is a high demand for science, technology, engineering, and math majors, she notes, in particular computer science and information technology. Although the technology sector in Massachusetts has grown at a rate of 5.6 percent since 2009, there remains a shortage of workers with adequate skills for the tech fields, according to a February 2014 Boston Globe article.
Schuster uses a variety of techniques including hands-on activities, collaborative work, and discussion on current and relevant topics to keep CIS students engaged and informed.
She also likes to take her CIS skills off campus and frequently leads workshops on technology, gizmos and gadgets, and information security at local schools and after-school centers, like the Boys and Girls Club.
Northern Essex offers three associate degrees in computer information systems and seven certificate programs. To learn more visit the Computer and Information Sciences Programs on the web.