New Faculty Member, 2021-22
Brian L. Atkinson
Lecturer, Information technology
Brian L. Atkinson is returning to the desert Southwest full-time after spending the past three years as both a faculty associate in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and a visiting professor at the University of Illinois Chicago — and prior to that as an assistant dean and director of the University of Arizona’s College of Social & Behavioral Sciences for more than 20 years.
“I chose to be at Arizona State University because it represented an opportunity for me to contribute to a successful and growing information technology program on the Polytechnic campus,” says Atkinson. “It was also a return to my beloved desert, and reduced my weekly commute from 18 hours, or sometimes more, to only six hours.”
But more than that, Atkinson was lured by the chance to help forge an identity for the information technology program.
“Everything in the program is new and as a result exciting,” he says. “Every class, every initiative and every new decision that has yet to be made provides an opportunity, and sometimes a challenge, to contribute and be excited.”
Atkinson had been managing data and technology for most of his career, so it seemed logical for him to pursue an education in the field. In addition to studying large-scale text analysis and processing while earning a doctoral degree, he also earned a terminal master’s degree in information resources and library sciences and a bachelor of fine arts degree in design and visual communications.
“My primary interest resulted from too much statistical and analytical contemplation about how professional literature and other text associated with technology leadership are purely anecdotal or qualitative in nature,” says Atkinson. “I thought it odd that such an empirical or data-rich environment wasn’t more engaged with empirical or data-driven leadership constructs. Natural language processing provides a solution by allowing the examination of extraordinarily large amounts of text in quantitative, semantic and scientific manners. It is almost like alchemy – turning lead to gold.”
At ASU, Atkinson will be teaching data modeling, cloud data and natural language processing courses.
“I approach teaching using a constructivist pedagogy,” he says. “Reading, memorizing and regurgitating for tests work well for some students and some disciplines. On the other hand, being actively engaged, critical of your own work and feeling free to fail without catastrophic results all seem to provide a better foundation for students in technology and engineering.”
Atkinson is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and an avid sailor who is pursuing his captain’s license. He recently spent a few weeks sailing a 43-foot catamaran around the British Virgin Islands.