September 11, 2018

Round Two

New students have arrived. The old are back. (Students, of course. Don’t call faculty old; that’s just rude.) Streets are filled with moving trucks and minivans. Even fall has returned, and thus the blanket to my bed. Old friends exchange greetings. New bonds are forming. Posters are adorning walls. Beds are being made for the first and last time. Pantries are being stocked (with ramen noodles and cereal). Accountability buddies are synchronizing schedules for early morning bouts at the gym. Sophomores are making resolutions to go to bed at “reasonable” hours. Plans of starting homework early are whispered all around campus. We’re all getting ready for the first day of class.

First-year students enter Mead Chapel during Middlebury’s Convocation.

I remember getting ready for my first day of class last fall. I was nervous, to say the least. You may remember me confessing about it last year. Strangely enough, I didn’t die. In the words of one psalmist,

I’ve had some good days
I’ve had some hills to climb
I’ve had some weary days
And some sleepless nights

an excerpt from I Won’t Complain, as performed by Rev. Paul Jones

Yes, I once stayed up until 4:15am grading papers to for a class at 8am. Yes, I once foolishly wrote all the steps to Principal Component Analysis on the blackboard without my notes and incorrectly notated the formula for Eigen decomposition. Yes, I coded live in class only to see my screen fill with red errors. And still, no one died. Not students. Not me. No riots ensued. Chalk was not thrown (at me). We all grew together.

Speaking of growing, I’ve got a growing wait-list for Introduction to Computing. In the words of Antonio Brown, “Business is Boomin'” and I could not be any more excited. This year, we’re using new tools such as Trinket.io to make code more accessible and teachable to students. We’ve spiced up our labs. Graders are annotating assignments digitally, reducing our carbon footprint and streamlining the process. Yet, with change comes uncertainty. Entropy. Nevertheless, if I’ve learned one thing in graduate school, it’s resilience.

I’ve heard things get easier over time. I’ve also heard one becomes wiser with age. I’m counting on one of the two to be true.

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Jason Grant

Jason Grant is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Middlebury College. His research areas include computer vision and biometrics. Outside of the office you can find him at the gym, on a mountain or in the woods with his dog, or playing the piano.

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