Lillian Cassel was one of the six recipients of the Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM) 2012 Distinguished Educator Award. Cassel is a professor of computer science in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She received both her M.S. and her Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Delaware.
Cassel serves on the ACM Education Board and the Policy Committee of the National Science Digital Library. She is the digital library lab coordinator at Villanova and serves on the University Senate, Academic Policy Committee and Mathematics for Computing Committee to name a few.
ACM is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, and has been for more than 60 years. There are approximately 100,000 members and the ACM distributes resources that advance computing.
Both students and associates of the computing world can be members of the ACM, and there are three categories of member recognition—senior members, distinguished members and fellows. The Distinguished Member Recognition program was created in 2006 to honor members who have established significant achievements in computing.
Members of the ACM must have a minimum of 15 years’ experience and five years of recognized Professional Membership. There are three categories of distinguished members, which are educators, engineers and scientists.
Cassel received the Distinguished Educator Award for her influence on her students, colleagues and the computing community. Her work as a chair on a special interest group in computer science education and co-founding of an education conference contributed to her nomination but was especially cemented with her role as the lead principal investigator in the “Ensemble Project.”
The “Ensemble Project” is a portal for computing education materials, connecting educators with computing education related work, resources and technology.
The “Ensemble Project” is funded by the National Science Foundation as part of a larger project called the National Science Digital Library. The purpose of the NSDL is to gather learning resources for every age and level of education in a variety of different academic disciplines.
The “Ensemble Project” is one of the sub projects in the computing discipline. It is compiled of teaching materials for newer aspects of computing, discussions for related topics, a comprehensive catalogue of tools in computing education and many more utilities. This provides educators the ability to share their teaching materials and further advance them.
Cassel’s colleague in the computer science department, Daniel Joyce, nominated her for this award.
The nomination process includes a nomination letter from the principal nominator, which includes the work of the nominee, the candidate’s qualifications, a citation and supporting letters from at least three endorsers. These endorses must be prominent members of the ACM, who are familiar with the contributions from the nominee and are members of varying institutions.
Cassel was excited about receiving this prestigious award and commended not only the University, but also the many people she has had the honor of working with over the years for contributing to her success.
“I really do feel fortunate for having spent 26 years at Villanova,” Cassel said. “My time here has been very special and continues to be. Villanova appreciates this kind of work and the focus on education. Teaching, learning and the quality of education is really important at Villanova and that’s not the case everywhere. Having the encouragement here has been great and it has allowed me to work with, and meet interesting people all over the world.”
Cassel has had the opportunity to get many different perspectives on computing and the process of educating computing because of her work with the ACM, Villanova and the “Ensemble Project.” The ACM’s worldwide network has provided her with the perspectives that one would not be able to encounter at any one institution.
“This has been a very special opportunity and I’m very grateful for it,” Cassel said. “I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with wonderful people…in the development of computing education.”