Daniel F. Keefe

Associate Professor, Computer Science & Engineering

Daniel F. Keefe, in dark sweater, light curly hair and beard, and glasses, stands before an image of three students wearing dark virtual reality (?) glasses.

Not one to shrink from a challenge, Daniel Keefe took on a course known as the toughest to teach.

“This is where students really learn to program,” says a colleague. “Like his advanced computer graphics, visualization, and virtual reality courses, Dan has found ways to make this course a ‘joyful struggle’ and helped make it more manageable for new instructors.”

With colleagues, Keefe revised and created new courses to establish a popular undergraduate research track in visual computing. His students work at a high level on problems in a variety of fields, and many are listed on publications with him. Some are partnering with Upper and Lower Sioux Dakota communities and immigrant Micronesians to teach, practice, and preserve traditional knowledge from both cultures.

Undergraduate educators have a fundamental responsibility to tackle the hard questions of who designs and benefits from these technologies, when to use them, and how to use them for good.

But above all, Keefe is out to erase stereotypes about computer science and scientists by changing the reality. He has argued forcefully for recognizing faculty efforts to diversify the field and the student body as valuable contributions to the department, University, local community, and discipline. His immensely successful experimental course, Visualization and Virtual Reality for Social Justice—a class with 68 percent female enrollment—pointed the way.

“Dr. Keefe helped me see the value in coding across the humanities and science and proved that anyone can learn the basics,” says a female student from the class.