This semester, Professor Prairie Rose Goodwin finished her first year as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Computer Science. A Vassar alumna, she graduated in 2012 as a computer science major with correlates in Greek and Roman studies and mathematics.
Goodwin was initially drawn to Vassar for her undergraduate degree because of the classics department. She sought to expand upon a long-standing interest in the Romans, specifically their creations that have lasted millennia. While taking courses in the Greek and Roman Studies Department, Goodwin also took math courses, where she excelled. She decided to take computer science courses to explore the technical part of her brain and found that she enjoyed it. When explaining how she decided to change her major, she remarked, “Part of what has always drawn me to the Romans is their technology and the fact that they were able to make aqueducts with levers and pulleys … So I gave in and decided that I was a very technical person after all.”
Recounting her favorite memories of Vassar, she recollected, “[Some] days [students] would take the fall leaves and turn them into giant peace signs and make campus into an art installation and that was really cool to walk through. It was those little unexpected moments that were really fun to be a part of and to know that there was so much creativity going on at Vassar at all times.”
Following her undergraduate degree, Goodwin knew she wanted to attend graduate school, work in the tech industry, then return to academia. She attended graduate school at North Carolina State University, where she graduated with an MS and a PhD in Computer Science. After graduate school, she was motivated to gain real-world experience she could later bring into the classroom. Goodwin first worked for a startup then at SAS Institute, the latter being a data analytics company where she spent the most time. During her time at SAS, she was a Senior Product Developer working on Internet of Things (IoT). Expanding on IoT, she furthered, “It’s this idea of internet everywhere and connected environments and sensors that can send back gobs of information, and what you can do if you can actually harness that information is really powerful.” Goodwin specifically worked on cloud-based solutions for IoT business applications. She particularly enjoyed working on problems that many others were unsure of how to solve, even though solutions were needed.
Goodwin’s first teaching experiences occurred at North Carolina State university and The Arts Institute of Raleigh-Durham during her time as a grad student.She officially returned to academia later when she accepted the job at Vassar for the Fall 2021 semester. In coming back to Vassar, she hoped to connect on a more individualized level with her students, which she mentioned is a trait specific to the school. Since being back, she has enjoyed the eagerness of her students to learn about the world. She has noted that the people in her classroom genuinely want to be there, and it has made a difference in her engagement with academia. Goodwin also mentioned that she also enjoys working with the department’s faculty, who she characterized as caring and supportive of their colleagues’ success. She concluded that as of now, they are one of the most caring teams she has worked on, whether it be in industry or academia.
I have had the pleasure of taking two courses with Goodwin: Data Structures & Algorithms and Analysis of Algorithms. Her teaching style is unlike any other in the department. She peppers her lectures with anecdotes of current events, as well as lessons learned from her time in industry. I believe she has been successful in connecting her real-world experiences to the classroom, and my understanding of the potential applications of computer science in my future have been expanded because of it.
Outside of the classroom, Goodwin enjoys creativity, which manifested itself in the form of an embroidery business she ran prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. She also enjoys video games and believes they are a great tool for teaching tenacity and thinking skills. Specifically, she enjoys that games are able to tell diverse and deep stories in a comprehensible manner that other platforms cannot.
Goodwin will return in the fall as an Associate Professor of Computer Science. When asked what she hopes to contribute to the Vassar community, she remarked, “I do feel like I have a fresh point of view having recently been in industry, especially post-COVID.” She continued, “The world is different and having gone through that, I feel like I have really good advice for people who are just starting out in the workplace.” Goodwin specializes in human-computer interaction, which is a unique subfield she is bringing to the department. Over the next few years, she hopes to contribute academically to a new area of research as well as more personally with advice she is able to offer students.