OXFORD, Ohio- Jim Kiper, a Miami University professor of computer science and software engineering with ties to the Portsmouth area, has been honored with the 2021 Benjamin Harrison Medallion for his educational contributions to his students.
Never living in Portsmouth, Kiper did spend parts of his childhood when his father served as a minister of the Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene. Following retirement, Dennis and Vera Kiper lived in the city for 25 years.
“There are many people there that loved my parents for what they did for the church,” Jim Kiper said in a Friday phone interview. “My dad was a people pastor. He wasn’t necessarily a great speaker, but he spent lots of time visiting people in the hospital and shut-ins.”
Kiper, who joined Miami in 1986, was the first in his department to receive funding from the National Science Foundation. Characteristic of his commitment to teaching, that NSF award allowed the department to obtain modern workstations, said Cathy Bishop-Clark, associate provost and dean of Miami University Regionals.
“When we began teaching programming in 1989, we taught these courses in lecture rooms without computers. Jim was instrumental in introducing faculty to a more active type of learning in the classrooms through the use of computer laboratories. To this day, I believe Jim’s work had a profound effect on the faculty, students, and the university,” said Bishop-Clark, who is also a professor of computer and information technology.
Kiper is widely known as an expert in the areas of software engineering, software risk assessment and mitigation, and software design rationale. His collaborations with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory led to his being first in the department to receive research funding from NASA.
With collaborators from JPL, Kiper’s research involved software development and its risks to a broader perspective in the development of NASA’s complex spacecraft, a nominator said. “I believe that the collaborations I have had with professor Kiper have been productive and valuable to our nation’s space exploration, thanks to not only his expertise in areas of software, risk, clustering and visualization, but, of no less importance, his demeanor and professionalism that make it such a joy to work with him.”
Kiper’s current research focus is on developing tools and methods for improving computer science and software education. In the past 10 years, he has received approximately $1.4 million in NSF funding for projects including the use of various learning and engagement strategies in a cyberlearning environment to improve students’ skills in software development. He is widely known for applying research into classroom teaching and education, several nominators said.
Several of these collaborative research grants are directly aimed at helping to increase women and minority participation in engineering and computing.
Kiper has served on the steering committee for the NSF/Ohio Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program and has been the principal investigator at Miami for five-year LSAMP grants funded from 2013-2018 and 2018-2023. The LSAMP program aims to increase STEM baccalaureate and graduate degrees awarded to underrepresented populations.
Kiper is not only an excellent researcher: His deep and steady commitment to a liberal education is perhaps his biggest contribution to Miami, a nominator said. “Kiper is an excellent teacher who has taught virtually every CSE course the university offers from the 100 level to graduate level,” the nominator said.
A unique example is the art competition, now in its seventh year, he initiated between his department and Miami art students. Winners are paid for their artwork, which is then displayed in Benton Hall for students, faculty, staff and visitors to appreciate.
Kiper led an “explosive growth” in the department during his service as chair of computer science and software engineering (CSE). Between 2010 and 2020, the number of CSE majors increased from 225 to nearly 900, and the number of full-time faculty grew from 12 to nearly 30.
“This growth has had a great deal to do with Jim’s overall leadership, by attracting and retaining a strong faculty and building a strong relationship with alumni,” a nominator said.
Kiper’s service to the university is “nothing short of phenomenal,” a nominator said. “He did not just ‘serve’ on committees, he led the development of the university’s strategic plan, he changed the way the university approves curriculum. His contributions are numerous, deeply impactful, and broad.”
He co-led, with former Provost Phyllis Callahan, the Miami 2020 Strategic Plan task force. Currently, he serves on the University Senate’s Fiscal Priorities and Budget Planning Committee. He has served nine years on the University Senate, on the Liberal Education Council, the Council on Diversity and Inclusion, the Graduate Council, the Regional Campus Process Committee, Liberal Education Revision Task Force, and the Top 25 Courses committee.
Kiper is “a shining example of collaborative leadership and service with people he leads and people he reports to,” a nominator said. “Over the course of more than three decades, Dr. Kiper has made extraordinary and sustained contributions to teaching, research, and service at Miami University.
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