I discovered computers while contemplating a life of underemployment as a graduate student in English. Noting the odd similarity between 17th century English poetry and perfect programs, I retrained and spent a decade in the computer industry, including a stint at Sperry Univac, the company founded by the inventors of ENIAC, one of the earliest electronic digital computers. I joined the Gonzaga faculty in 1990. My research interests include computer processing of speech and language, and the social impact of computing. For the past few years I have been working with Dr. Mark Vandam of the Washington State University’s medical school (Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences) on extracting features from over 12,000 hours of infant and toddler speech. We hope to be able to detect in early speech disorders that may manifest themselves much later.
At Gonzaga, of course, we are teachers as well as scholars. I was blessed to study with gifted teachers and scholars, including the great Jesuit rhetorician, Walter J. Ong, S.J., whose devotion to scholarship remains an inspiration. I believe that I teach best when I talk less and my students do more. A slight change to the refrain from Theodore Roethke’s poem, The Waking, guides my teaching: “[They] learn by going where [they] have to go.”
I am a member of the Linguistics Society of America, the IEEE Computer Society, Phi Beta Kappa, and Alpha Sigma Nu, the Jesuit Honor Society. I was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at Berkeley and a University Fellow at Temple. I did my dissertation on speech recognition at the University of New Mexico under George Luger.
Human Language Acquisition
I am working with Dr. Mark Vandam of Washington State University’s medical school (Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences) on a project that uses a massive collection of child and adult speech to investigate human language acquisition. This is an ongoing project. Here is a link to world-wide media attention that one of our papers received not long ago: https://labs.wsu.edu/vandam/media/.
Automatic Speech Recognition
I am working with two GU students to use machine learning techniques to develop a probabilistic syllabifier. This grows out of earlier work I did in automatic speech recognition.
The Social Impact of Computing
I spent part of a recent sabbatical as Visiting Research Fellow at the Walter J. Ong, S.J. Center for Language, Culture, and Media Studies at St. Louis University. I am using Ong’s work to investigate contemporary attitudes toward digital privacy. Here is a link to a 30-minute interview on that project which I did on Marcus Smith’s program Thinking Aloud at WBYU/SIRIUSXM: http://www.classical89.org/thinkingaloud/archive/episode/?id=11/2/2015