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2016 Award for Excellence in Leadership: Richard Zhang
We're delighted to profile the winners of the 2016 Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Awards for Excellence in Graduate Studies. Richard Zhang receives an award for Excellence in Leadership.
“In his four years as graduate program chair, Zhang has led several initiatives to improve graduate student funding, engaged in effective recruiting strategies, managed co-op growth and shown commitment to the overall graduate student learning experience,” says Greg Mori, director of Computing Science.
Zhang's dedication to mentorship and supervision of his own current and former students has proven results. Many of his graduate students are well published, and have presented at prestigious conferences, received recognition of their own excellence, and landed careers in academia. Others have chosen to work in the industry as software engineers with high-profile organizations including Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft.
Zhang has led improvements in the School of Computing Science to streamline the selection and application process of graduate students, with university-wide results. As a member of the school’s graduate program committee, he initiated one of SFU’s first, if not the first, online graduate student application system in 2005. This system was later adopted by another school, and it laid the foundation for the development and implementation of SFU’s online application system, Oasis, which is in use today.
Working with the school's former director, Greg Mori, he reinstated the Computer Science Graduate Fellowships that support all incoming thesis students financially, “removing the time-consuming and wasteful ranking and review previously used by faculty,” explains Mori. Zhang also helped to manage the launch of the school’s co-op program for non-thesis graduate students, which saw a rapid rise in interest from organizations wishing to place graduate students. The program grew from eight student placements in its first year (2011/12), to 51 placements in 2014/15.
“It is truly gratifying to receive my first service award at SFU,” says Zhang. “I do feel a passion for graduate supervision and graduate program developments. I once heard a quote on the evolution of a professor's academic life. Paraphrasing, it says ‘that sooner or later, you will be judged not by how much you can accomplish yourself, but by how high your graduate students can reach’. Our graduate students are doing extremely well and we have the potential to be one of the very top Computer Science graduate programs in Canada and internationally.”