UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Joseph Oakes, associate teaching professor of information sciences and technology and computer science program chair at Penn State Abington; is the recipient of Penn State's 2021 Undergraduate Program Leadership Award.
The award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated exemplary leadership benefiting a Penn State undergraduate degree program. Specifically, it recognizes those individuals who have major responsibilities for the delivery of undergraduate education within a unit and who are providing leadership that has transformed or revitalized the undergraduate program in some way.
Since coming to the University 20 years ago, colleagues said, Oakes has made a massive impact on the growth of the program. They said he used his 10 years of professional experience, wealth of knowledge and contacts to fine-tune the curriculum so that students are immediately able to make an impact in the field.
“Given the fast-moving nature of the discipline, Oakes constantly consults with industry colleagues to keep pace with needed change. For instance, he sees to it that our Emerging Issues and Technologies and IST Integration and Problem Solving courses always address the most pressing topics in the field and those relevant to employers in our service area.”
Oakes uses his industry connections to benefit students. For example, industry leaders visit Penn State to judge students’ capstone projects. For each course, 10 to 20 experts offer real-life insight to students. This gives students relevant experience while earning industry ties themselves.
Oakes is known as a dedicated adviser for his studies, whether he serves in the formal capacity or not. He also contributes disproportionately to advising, with an average of 40 to 60 students at one time.
Improving diversity in the program is also on Oakes’ radar. The 2019 class was a majority minority, and nearly 40% female.
When Oakes joined the program, just one option — integration and application — was offered. As chair, he added a second option — design and development — a minor in system research & applications, and a bachelor of science degree in computer science.
“It bears mentioning that Oakes was willing to take on the computer science program in spite of his already busy portfolio, and that he managed to recruit more than 60 students after one year, 45 more students than we projected,” a colleague said. “In addition, we are now in the final stages of approval to offer the Cybersecurity Analytics and Operations degree, which promises to attract as many students as computer science.”