The Deltas of a New Directorship – a conversation with KFSCIS’s new director, Dr. Jason Liu

Newly-appointed Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences director Dr. Jason Liu poses in front of the Green Library | Via FIU Flickr

Isabel Rivera | Contributing Writer

After experiencing a surge in enrollment by more than 1,000 students since 2018, the booming Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences (KFSCIS) has found itself undergoing yet another big change: a newly appointed director. 

On August 17th, just shy of the 2023 fall semester, Dr. Jason Liu’s acceptance of the permanent directorship of KFSCIS was announced via FIU News after having served as its interim director for the past three years. 

While the role itself is a new experience for the director, Liu’s history at FIU dates as far back as 2007, when he was first onboarded as an assistant professor and eventually rose up to associate professor. 

The interim directorship presented itself in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time most would consider inopportune for promotions in higher education administration.

“I like to be where the excitement takes place. At FIU, so far, it never stays flat,” said Liu on why he chose to further commit to KFSCIS by accepting the directorship. 

“Increasing enrollment, increasing activities, the size of projects getting larger . . . from a professional perspective, I like to see myself making a contribution towards growth.” 

The transition from full-time faculty to full-time administrator has not come without its internal and external changes for both director and school, however. 

A stark contrast in responsibilities, Liu found the adaptability required of one in the administrative world to be the biggest learning curve for him. 

“As a researcher, I never saw myself not having things done. ‘Finished Section 3 of this paper, done teaching this course,’ — everything had a concrete milestone and timeline,” said Liu. “As a manager, you realize everything is up in the air; things don’t have a definite finish and you have to attend to them until they’re done.” 

“I see myself as a juggler catching things. That was sort of a mentality change for myself.”

Conversely, the school itself has felt a shift on both a faculty and student level since the start of Liu’s directorship as he aims to grow it in all aspects.

For faculty members, Liu plans to further instill a hands-on approach to problem-solving within the school.

He referenced the Break Through Tech partnership with Women in Computer Science (WiCS), a program that aims to increase the number of women and underrepresented communities in technology degrees and careers, as a prime example.

“If you’re not on the ball, those opportunities slip through; you have to be hands-on. We know what we need to do for the school? Let’s do it.”

On the student level, KFSCIS majors can expect a boost in research opportunities, specifically within the hot topics of cybersecurity and AI, machine learning, and the interdisciplinary applications of these technologies.

His gameplan? A proven-successful combination of seeking out applicable grants, collaborating with other FIU colleges and departments, and hiring top researchers within these fields as faculty. 

As for long-term goals, Liu’s mission for his directorship at KFSCIS remains surprisingly simple: quality over quantity.

“Of course, we can say we’re graduating 900 students – 1,000 students – every year. It’ll come once you deal with the infrastructure, the support – having the faculty and everything for that.”“The question comes down to ‘What exactly is the delta, in addition to the projected inflation rate, that we can actually be able to contribute to?’”

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