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Oscar Win Would be Fitting Tribute to Turing

By Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera, president

Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera

The Imitation Game, based on the real-life story of Alan Turing and his team of code-breakers at England’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School in World War II, garnered eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Benedict Cumberbatch.

Turing built a digital computer that broke Nazi Germany’s most closely guarded encryption code, the Enigma code. That story was superbly told in The Imitation Game, which ended with the filmmakers’ revelation that Turing committed suicide in 1954. An open-minded gay man, Turing was a victim of the discriminatory laws of the day.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill said that “Turing’s work was one of the most important factors in the victory for the Allied forces and had probably shortened the war by as much as two years.” In 1945 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his services to his country and in 1951, Turing was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society.

However, we knew nothing about this war hero and mathematical and engineering genius until the 1970s, and not until 2012, 100 years after his birth, were his wartime papers declassified. What is now known is that Turing’s brilliant work proved essential to the development of computers and today’s machines rely on his seminal insight. He brought cryptology to the modern world and invented the concept of the programmable computer.

In 1936, while reading mathematics in Cambridge, England, the 24-year-old Turing made an extraordinary discovery: a universal “computing” machine. Turing called this theoretical entity the “automatic machine,” or a-machine; today we call it the Universal Turing Machine. Turing proved that the a-machine could solve any computing problem capable of being described as a sequence of mathematical steps. In 1938 he completed his Ph.D. thesis at Princeton, providing a formalization of the concepts of “algorithms” and “computation.” More importantly, he proved the notion that “software,” a word not coined yet, was capable of encompassing “every known process” as evidenced by today’s world of computers.

Turing’s interest in the human mind, even from 1936, centered on modeling the brain; in the 1940s he developed ideas for artificial intelligence (a term attributed to John McCarthy from the University of Pennsylvania in the mid-1950s). In the early 1950s Turing founded a completely new field: mathematical biology (today’s computational biology, without which we would not have been able to decipher the human genome). In 1952, he developed a chess program for a computer that did not yet exist but which he simulated by hand. It was his fascination with the human brain that led him to develop a test for machine-based intelligence; he called it the imitation game, published in his extraordinary paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.” It is now known as the famous Turing Test.

The hardware does not look the same, but the mathematical model of today’s computers is identical to the Turing machine. Proving again that he was way ahead of his time, Turing showed indirectly that we cannot automatically detect machine viruses or other malicious code, which explains why cyber-security is one of the most intractable problems of the 21st century.

The Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) A.M. Turing Award is an annual prize that honors an individual “for contributions of a technical nature made to the computing community.” It is generally recognized as the highest distinction in computer science, the “Nobel Prize in Computing,” now carrying a $1 million prize.

This is a fitting tribute to Turing, who was grossly misunderstood during his lifetime, but today is remembered as a true science and engineering pioneer, and a hero of the theory and practice of computer science.

And while The Imitation Game did a superb job of chronicling Turing’s heroic work during World War II, the film told just a portion of his story. As I left the theater I couldn’t help but wonder how much further ahead computing would be today if Turing had lived longer.

Sherman Receives Keuka College/GCC Joint Presidential Scholarship

Skip Sherman, third from left, recipient of the Keuka College/Genesee Community College Joint Presidential Scholarship, is flanked by Kim Morgan, director of admissions; Mark Petrie, vice president for enrollment management, Dr. Paul Forestell, provost and vice president for academic affiars; Kyle Cute, admissions counselor; and William Emm M'08, GCC's vice president for planning and institutional effectiveness

Robert “Skip” Sherman, head baseball coach at Genesee Community College (GCC) in Batavia, received the Keuka College/GCC Joint Presidential Scholarship in a ceremony at GCC on Friday, Feb. 6.

Sherman, who lives in Holley with his wife and young children, will begin pursuit of a Master of Science degree in management (MSM) this spring through Keuka College’s Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP).

Dr. James M. Sunser, president of GCC, and Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera, president of Keuka College, selected Sherman for the award.

“The goal of providing opportunities for continued academic success is one that GCC and Keuka College proudly share,” Sunser said. “I can think of no better candidate for a scholarship to pursue a Master of Science in management through Keuka College than our own Skip Sherman. I trust Skip will not only be a dedicated student, but with his background and experience, I am confident he will help make a lively and spirited classroom cohort.”

Aside from his role as head baseball coach, Sherman also leads GCC’s academic mentoring program for student-athletes. As a head baseball coach, Sherman has enjoyed many successful seasons with more than 350 wins, but says that the greatest successes of his career have occurred off the field.

“My position is rewarding because I have an impact on the students’ success in the classroom, and their athletic and academic experiences help them be career ready,” he said. “Sixty-eight of my student-athletes have had the opportunity to continue to four-year institutions with a baseball scholarship.”

Leadership and service are core components of Keuka College’s MSM program, which was recently ranked as one of the top 50 MSM programs in the country by The Financial Engineer. Candidates are evaluated for admission based on, among other things, their prior academic experience, volunteer and community service history, and leadership potential.

Sherman’s résumé includes oversight of an impressive number of community outreach programs, including a youth baseball camp and a Kid’s Night program that has hosted more than 9,000 children in nine years.

“This award is an outstanding opportunity, and I am excited to give back everything this master’s program has to offer while working at GCC,” he said.

Keuka College’s MSM program is offered at nearly a dozen partner locations across western New York, including GCC’s Batavia campus. The program features a rigorous accelerated format designed for working professionals, allowing them to earn their degree in 18 months. For more information, visit www.keuka.edu/asap.

 

College Receives $250,000 from New York State to Help Fund Center for Business Analytics and Health Informatics

Keuka College has received $250,000 from New York State to fund a project aimed at boosting the economic profile of Yates County.

The Empire State Development (ESD) grant will help fund the Center for Business Analytics and Health Informatics, which will be housed in a new building. Construction of the facility is expected to start in spring 2015.

The funding was included in the $80.7 million awarded to the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council (FLREDC) at a ceremony yesterday (Dec. 11) in Albany. The awards culminated the fourth annual New York State Regional Economic Development Councils competition in which 10 regional councils across the state vied for a piece of $750 million in grants and tax breaks.

Prof. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera, Ph.D.

“I am pleased that the FLREDC and ESD saw the value of the Center for Business Analytics and Health Informatics (CBAHI), especially the impact it will have on Yates County,” said Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera, president of Keuka College. “The Center will create jobs and become the hub for entrepreneurial programs and research in Yates County.”

The Center for Business Analytics and Health Informatics will leverage Keuka College’s entrepreneurial business programs to boost the economy of Yates County—New York State’s most economically challenged region—by creating construction, high-tech, health sciences, and education jobs,” said Díaz-Herrera.

“The academic programs, workshops, symposia and development of analytical capabilities that the CBAHI will promote will be vital components of our student’s education,” said Dr. Dan Robeson, founding director of the Center for Business Analytics and Health Informatics, chair of the Division of Business and Management and associate professor of management. “The CBAHI places Keuka College among the first movers in higher education in this new and dynamic field.”

“The Center will also leverage the College’s expertise in healthcare—in particular nursing and occupational therapy—to address the nursing shortage faced by Yates County and other rural regions across the country,” said Díaz-Herrera.

In addition, the president said health care providers in Yates County will receive state-of-the-art training in informatics.

“This is important because achieving meaningful use of electronic health records depends on the capacity of providers to effectively exchange data through interoperable systems while safeguarding the integrity, privacy, and security of patient information,” he explained.“The training provided by the Center, to nurses and others pursuing careers in healthcare, will help Yates County retain these talented workers, thereby ensuring a high-level of healthcare in the future.”

Keuka College students will also reap benefits because the Center will provide hands-on, experiential learning opportunities, a staple of a Keuka College education and a key to finding success in the job market and graduate school.

The Center will anchor a new college-town development (Keuka Commons)—called for in the College’s Long Range Strategic Plan—that will serve myriad needs of students and community residents. Early planning calls for a fitness center, stores, and eateries.

The ESD grant comes six months after the College earned START-UP designation, an initiative designed to provide major incentives for businesses to relocate, start up, or expand in New York State through affiliations with colleges and universities.

More than 2,500 square feet of vacant space at Keuka Business Park in Penn Yan was declared eligible for the START-UP program and the College is working with the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center to secure businesses for that location. The College also hopes to designate space in the Keuka Commons building for the START-UP NY initiative.

A centerpiece of the Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s strategy to jump-start the Empire State economy, the regional councils were established in 2011. The first three rounds of the regional council process awarded more than $2 billion to more than 2,200 job creation and community projects, supporting the creation and retention of more than 130,000 jobs.

Keuka College Will Mark Veterans Day with Ceremony to Honor College and Local Veterans

Associate Professor of History Chris Leahy

Keuka College will mark Veterans Day Tuesday, Nov. 11 with a 4:15 p.m. ceremony in Norton Chapel.

Local veterans, their families, and friends are invited to join the College community in the ceremony honoring veterans who have served our country.

College President Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera is expected to deliver remarks along with Chris Leahy, associate professor of history, who will speak on the meaning of Veterans Day; and Denise Duby, administrative assistant for the Office of Alumni and Family Relations. The founder of a support group for military families, Duby’s son is serving in the Marines. Duran Allen, a member of the Class of 2018 and a veteran, will also speak. Eric Detar, College chaplain, will offer a prayer of remembrance.

The program also includes Jeff Miller ’15 singing the Star-Spangled Banner, and Olivia O’Boyle ’15 singing Hero. Veterans’ names and pictures will be part of a special musical PowerPoint tribute, and each veteran will receive a flower.

The ceremony will conclude in front of the chapel with a 21-gun salute and the playing of Taps by members of the Penn Yan V.F.W. Color Guard.

A member of the Penn Yan V.F.W. Color Guard plays Taps

After the service, local veterans are invited to have dinner in the Geiser Refectory, Dahlstrom Student Center. The first 50 veterans who show their military I.D. will receive their dinner compliments of AVI Fresh, the College’s food service provider. Meals can be purchased by other guests for $10.60 each.

Anyone from the community interested in honoring a veteran during the College’s ceremony can contact Laurie Adams, assistant director of alumni and family relations, at (315) 279-5653.The deadline for including a veteran’s name in the program is Friday, Nov. 7.

Reich is Wrong about College Being a Ludicrous Waste of Money

By College President Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera

As predictable as students returning to their college classrooms every fall is the attack on the value of a college education—in particular a liberal arts education—in print.

What makes the latest round of punches surprising is the person throwing them. It’s hard to believe that one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy and a graduate of Dartmouth, Oxford, and Yale would pen a piece titled “College is a Ludicrous Waste of Money.”

But that is exactly what Robert Reich, former secretary of labor under President Clinton and current Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley did in a recent issue of Salon.

Professor Reich’s piece came on the heels of “For Some Graduates, College Isn’t Worth the Debt,” written by The Wall Street Journal’s Doug Belkin. In terms of name recognition, Belkin doesn’t pack the wallop Reich does, but his vehicle wields a lot more influence—not to mention readers—than Salon.

Professor Reich gets right to the point, stating that “a four-year liberal arts education is hugely expensive” and “too many young people graduate laden with debts that take years if not decades to pay off.”

As president of Keuka College, I will speak from an independent college perspective only. I disagree with the esteemed Professor Reich. In 2011-12, more than 25 percent of students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from a four-year independent college or university did not have any debt at all and the average debt load was $19,500. And here is one of the reasons: independent colleges give students nearly six times as much institutional grant aid as does the federal government.

Belkin weighs in on the debt issue, writing “…one in 10 borrowers is 90 days late on payments.”  Perhaps, but the average student loan default rate for independent college graduates is only 5.2 percent.

Belkin states that “roughly a quarter of college graduates with jobs are earning barely more than those with only a high-school diploma.” This is deceiving, since our country is still recovering from a severe economic downturn. But here’s some numbers Belkin did not mention: lifetime earnings of college degree holders range from $700,000 to $1 million more than those who have only a high school diploma.

Professor Reich asserts that “too often in America we equate ‘equal opportunity’ with an opportunity to get a four-year liberal arts degree; it should equate to “an opportunity to learn what’s necessary to get a good job.” You are right on both counts, Professor Reich. A college degree provides the best opportunity to get a good job.

Professor Reich isn’t off base with his contention that “we’ve allowed vocational and technical education to be downgraded and denigrated.” However, to put the blame on “our aspirations to increasingly focus on four-year college degrees” is way off base.

Why do technical and liberal arts educations have to be mutually exclusive? The fact is many liberal arts colleges are infusing some level of vocationalism into their curricula. At Keuka College, we are combining digital with liberal arts. Our graduates will understand the basic canon of our civilization and how to explore and communicate their ideas using modern tools through interactive visual communication, data manipulation and analytics.
As the late Steve Jobs said, “… it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”

I hope that Professor Reich did not write the headline for his opinion piece. It would be ludicrous to believe that one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century, according to TIME magazine, actually believes college is a waste of money.