Dan Keefe wins Bowers Faculty Teaching Award for 2021

Congratulations to associate professor Dan Keefe for receiving the 2021 Bowers Faculty Teaching Award. Each year, the Bowers Faculty Teaching Award recognizes one outstanding professor who has demonstrated exceptional interest and commitment to the teaching of students in the College of Science and Engineering.

This award recognizes Professor Keefe's dedication to teaching, advising and mentoring, curriculum development, and broadening participation in computing.

His extraordinary commitment to undergraduate education is perhaps most visible in his one-on-one interactions with students. His students consistently share that Keefe is approachable both inside and outside the classroom. He has developed two new courses in recent years which highlight his philosophy on how focusing course content on real-world impact can broaden and diversify student interest in a subject.

At the undergraduate level, he piloted a brand-new approach to introducing the field in the form of a class focused on the theme of “VR and Visualization for Social Justice”. This course served both as an introduction to technical programming skills, and as an exploration of how coding, visualization, data analysis, and experiential storytelling can all be combined as a form of communication and analysis of critical problems in our society.

He recently brought these ideas to the graduate-level as well with a new 8000-level course entitled “Data Vis for Advocacy and Empowerment” which saw students taking an interdisciplinary approach to completing a semester long work engaging with ideas at the intersection of data visualization and social change. “These are the kinds of transformations our department needs going forward, and we are lucky to have Dan’s efforts successfully leading us there,” lauded associate professor Stephen Guy, one of Keefe’s graphics and visualization colleagues.

His lab attracts a significant number of undergraduate, Masters, and Ph.D. students from diverse and uncommon backgrounds every semester. For example, the “Back to Indigenous Futures” Grand Challenges project co-led by Professor Keefe and faculty from the College of Design, School of Social Work, and Department of American Indian Studies, is based on a partnership with three local Indigenous communities. So far, Keefe has included six undergraduate students in the research, and several have described the experience as life-changing.& Further, this collaborative project has attracted two Anishinaabe students to our computer science Ph.D. program.

In addition, Professor Keefe chairs the department's Inclusiveness, Diversity, Equity and Advocacy (CS-IDEA) committee. He has led departmental efforts including the development of the first departmental Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) Plan, the collection and analysis of data on student recruitment and retention, and the revision of departmental policies and procedures using an equity lens. This semester, Keefe and three other faculty members launched a new “Inclusive Cohort” program aimed at supporting the department's most diverse cohort of Ph.D. admitted students to date.

"Dan’s contributions to education are outstanding and, in several cases, truly visionary, with great potential to continue impacting the university’s computing education mission for years to come," stated CS&E department head Mats Heimdahl. "He brings equal enthusiasm, energy, and innovation to our most challenging educational needs in the classroom and in society. He leads and teaches students how to make positive impacts by designing technologies for good causes, and students respond with the type of hands-on learning that is critical to a holistic computer science education. Dan is truly a gem and I am absolutely thrilled to have him in CS&E."


"This wonderful honor reaffirms these values and inspires me to do more. Many thanks to the students, staff, and faculty who have supported this work and who nominated me for this prestigious award," continued Keefe.

This award was established in 2000 by alumnus John Bowers (Physics '76) in honor of his father, Professor Emeritus Charles E. Bowers.

Congratulations to Professor Keefe on this very well deserved honor.