This article is published in the February 2024 issue.

Mary Lou Maher to Join CRA as Director of Research Community Initiatives

By Matt Hazenbush, Director of Communications 

The Computing Research Association (CRA) is excited to announce the naming of Mary Lou Maher, PhD to the position of Director of Research Community Initiatives. An accomplished researcher with leadership experience that spans the settings of universities, large research projects, and the National Science Foundation (NSF), Dr. Maher joins CRA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she most recently served as a professor in the Department of Software and Information Systems and previously served as the Department Chair. 

In her new role, Dr. Maher will assume responsibility as the director of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) and will work alongside its Council members to ensure fulfillment of its mission to enable the pursuit of innovative, high-impact computing research that aligns with pressing national and global challenges.

“The CCC is recognized as a leading force in bringing together the community’s top minds to articulate visions for the future of the field,” said Tracy Camp, CRA’s Executive Director and CEO. “Mary Lou’s experience and skill sets make her the ideal person to lead the CCC to the next phase of its development and take its impact to even greater heights.” 

Over the course of her distinguished career, Dr. Maher has led many large, multi-disciplinary research efforts, and been a champion of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in computing. Her research interests in human-centered AI includes deep learning models of creativity and co-creativity, ethical and trustworthy human-AI interaction, and interaction design for human-AI collaboration. She has led research projects that address organizational change for diversity, equity, and inclusion in computing education through AI-based learning analytics and inclusive approaches to collaborative active learning.

“Visioning activities, like those led by the CCC, have the power to transform the future of not just our field, but of society at large,” said Dr. Maher. “At this stage of my career, it’s my goal to impact computing research and policy more broadly through focusing my efforts on leading community-driven strategic thinking. I feel very fortunate to have been selected for this role to do just that.” 

An Experienced Leader in a Variety of Research Settings 

In addition to serving as a professor at UNC Charlotte, Dr. Maher has also been the Director of the Center for Education Innovation and Research, a college-wide center that leads organizational and pedagogical change to broaden participation in computing. She was also the Co-Director of the Human-Centered Computing Lab, the research of which covers a broad range of areas related to human-centered computing. She was a founding Co-Director of the Center for Humane AI Studies bringing together perspectives from Computing, Philosophy, and Sociology.

Prior to her time at UNC Charlotte, Dr. Maher served as the Deputy Director of the Information and Intelligent Systems Division at NSF, as well as a Program Director in the Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate. In her four years there, she established the CreativeIT program and helped manage the Human-Centered Computing, Cyber-Enabled Discovery and Innovation, Design Science, and Social-Computational Systems programs.

Dr. Maher earned her PhD in civil engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Science in engineering from Columbia University. 

“The key to CCC’s future will be in broadening our engagement across the breadth of the computing research community,” said Dan Lopresti, professor of computer science and engineering at Lehigh University, CRA Board Member, and CCC Chair. “Mary Lou’s mix of experience in a variety of research settings, as well as her impressive track record of successful collaborations, make her the perfect choice for this important role.”

The CCC’s Foundation of Success  

Maher assumes her new role after the long-time director, Ann Schwartz, stepped away to pursue a new opportunity at The White House, where she now serves as the inaugural program manager for the Pilot Office of the National Strategic Computing Reserve (NSCR).

In her time with the CCC, Dr. Schwartz led several impactful initiatives with the computing research community, including the development of the AI Roadmap, publishing Quadrennial Papers intended to highlight key research areas and needs for the new administration, and launching the CIFellows program.

“The mission of the CCC and the work it does in support of the community has never been more important than it is in this critical moment,” said Nadya Bliss, Executive Director of the Global Security Initiative at Arizona State University and CCC Vice Chair. “Mary Lou will be a tremendous partner in engaging the community to deliver high-impact work that rises to meet national and global challenges.” 

Liz Bradley, a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Colorado and a former council member and Chair, served as interim director from the time of Schwartz’s departure to January 1. 

Collaboration with the CCC Council 

As the director of CCC, Dr. Maher will work alongside CCC’s 24 Council members in their pursuit of high-impact research through visioning workshops, white papers, and symposiums.

If you or a colleague is interested in being considered for the Council, nominations are open through Friday, February 2

The Council is seeking nominations from leaders with established track records of service who will contribute great ideas, display sound judgment, and have the ability to work collaboratively to see things through to completion. Those selected will serve on the CCC Council for three year terms beginning July 1, 2024 and concluding June 30, 2027.

For more on the nomination process, visit the CCC blog.