Michael Wenye Li / Sun Senior Photographer

Gates Hall is the home of the Computing and Information Science Department.

September 22, 2019

Alumni, Industry Leaders to Return to Ithaca to Celebrate 20th Anniversary of Computing and Information Science

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Twenty years after Cornell launched an interdisciplinary Computing and Information Science unit to “mold the next generation of tech innovators and thought leaders,” some of those leaders will return to Ithaca to share their vision for the next 20 years — just a few days before Homecoming weekend.

CIS houses the departments of computer science, information science and statistics and data science with faculty hailing from mulitple colleges and two Cornell campuses. It is centered in the Bill and Melinda Gates Hall in Ithaca and the Cornell Tech campus in New York City, which opened in 2017.

“In 1999, the world was wary that the Y2K bug would wreak havoc on global computer systems, the Blackberry and Matrix was released, and Prince was realizing his ultimate party year,” the the [email protected] website states. “Here in Ithaca, New York, we were announcing the advent of Cornell Computing and Information Science [CIS], which was created to respond uniquely to the educational and scientific challenges of the advancing information age.”

In a series of events over Oct. 2-3, an array of speakers, spanning current and former Cornell presidents, various leaders from tech universities, alumni, students, corporate allies and Cornell faculty and staff will lead sessions touting themes of “Inspire, Innovate, Impact.”

“Advances in computing, insights from data and the design of digital platforms that we all use have brought about important changes in society and in academia,” Interim CIS Dean Jon Kleinberg told The Sun.

“For the past 20 years, Cornell CIS has worked to bring these ideas to students at all levels, and to incorporate them into research and scholarship across the university,” he continued. “The CIS 20th anniversary event will focus on the next steps in all these developments going forward and how we can contribute to them.”

Examples of sessions range from “Conquering the Data Tsunami” and “Anticipating Societal Impact” to “The Changing Role of Computing, Information and Data Science in Society and Education: A University Leaders Panel.”

The panel on “The Changing Role of Computing, Information and Data Science in Society and Education” will be moderated by Farhad Manjoo ’00. Manjoo — a former editor-in-chief of The Sun — is currently an opinion columnist for The New York Times who writes “about how technology is changing the world, for better and worse,” according to their bio (They also investigated how the infamous pumpkin got on top of the clock tower).

“I thought the event sounded interesting and it’s been a while since I’ve been back in Ithaca, so I thought it would be fun to come out,” Manjoo told The Sun.

President Martha E. Pollack — widely dubbed as an expert in artificial intelligence — will be featured on the panel, along with Harvard Prof. Barbara Grosz ’69, Carnegie Mellon University President Farnam Jahanian, Stanford Professor Iain Johnstone and MIT Chancellor and Prof. W. Eric Grimson.

Pollack will also lead a fireside chat called “Creating Cornell CIS” that will include former University president Hunter R. Rawlings III, Founding CIS Dean Bob Constable and Cornell Tech Dean Greg Morrisett.

“There’s something for everyone at the event!” Leslie Morris, CIS Director of Communications, told The Sun. “A celebratory video, trending research faculty panels, an exciting domino fall, reception featuring CIS clubs and PhD student research and leaders of tech higher education talking about the impact of tech on society and education.”

The “exciting domino fall” will be constructed by Christopher Wright ’20, whose company, Wright Reactions, has been featured on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

“I am going to set up several thousand dominoes and chain reaction elements for the event. I will be making a custom Gates Hall out of dominoes, some secret binary messages, and many logos for the department and student organizations,” Wright told The Sun. “I am extremely excited about it all and grateful for having this opportunity to work with the CIS department and Cornell.”

The [email protected] events will take place in Statler Ballroom, with registration free and open to the general public. Certain segments of the event will also be livestreamed, with videos available the following week.

In conjuction with [email protected], an exhibit at the Johnson Museum of Art is also slated for Oct. 1 to 13. Titled “Digital Technology in Art: Celebrating 20 Years of CIS,” the exhibit will spotlight works of art dedicated to promoting developments in the realm of computer and information science.

“From some of the first fine art applications of Photoshop, to early iterations of born digital art, to scientific data used to visualize effects of climate change, artists on display utilize digital technologies as both conceptual inspiration and aesthetic tool,” the event page reads.

This post has been updated.