Today I would like to introduce Dr. Jennifer J. Preece, Dean of the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. I first became aware of Dr. Preece's work when writing my candidacy paper on online communities for parents of children with disabilities. I will continue to develop that paper for my master's thesis.
According to her web site, Dr. Preece's research interests include computer-mediated communication, human-computer interaction, management of online communities of practice, health, education, and knowledge. I share these interests, and I find her work to be both compelling and relevant. In 2000, she published a book entitled Online Communities: Designing Usability, Supporting Sociability, a resource that I am consulting quite a bit as I work on my thesis. I admire Dr. Preece's commitment to what she describes as her three main research areas: (1) knowledge exchange, cross-cultural communication, empathy, trust, and etiquette online; (2) why and how people do or do not participate; and (3) heuristics and methods for developing, maintaining, and evaluating online communities.
Online communication is the main reason that I developed an interest in IST in the first place. Dr. Preece's incorporation of design strategies into her study of online communities is inspiring for me as I work to incorporate HCI theories into my work.
As I look over a history of Dr. Preece's employment, I notice that she did not quickly rack up her baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral degrees. Although her accomplishments are impressive even going back to the beginning of her career, I still see a trend of slowly building up to where she is now. Additionally, I notice that her bachelor's degree was in biology, which seems completely unrelated to computing -- it appears that her foray into the IS world occured several years after she graduated, when she joined the Computers in the Curriculum Project (which sought to develop computer-based curricula for teaching science at the high school and college level). I admire this gradual career path, with twists and turns along the way.