In their 18 years at Virginia Tech and the Department of Computer Science, Deborah Tatar and Steve Harrison have performed outstanding research that has inspired and shaped the human-computer interaction field, provided leadership at many levels; and have served the Center for Human-Computer Interaction and Virginia Tech, and the profession admirably. 

With great gratitude, the department recognizes Deborah and Steve for their many contributions to our community and to the world. On the occasion of their well-deserved retirement to the home they’ve been building in California for the last several years, it’s appropriate to step back and thank them for all the ways they’ve made an impact. 

The department had an opportunity to recognize Deborah and Steve at the fall faculty retreat. They made a special appearance as they were making their way to California. 

Cal Ribbens, department head, presents Deborah Tatar and Steve Harrison plaques at the summer faculty retreat.
Cal Ribbens, department head, celebrated and recognized Deborah Tatar and Steve Harrison for their dedication and service to their students and the department, at the summer faculty retreat.

In addition to being a professor in the department, with a courtesy appointment in psychology, Deborah was also a member of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction (CHCI). She also held roles as a Fellow of the Institute for Creativity, Art and Technology (ICAT), and a member of the Program for Women and Gender Studies at Virginia Tech. 

Also a member of CHCI, Steve was a professor of practice in the department and the School of Visual Arts. 

Deborah and Steve made important contributions to CHCI and the broader HCI community through their service and leadership. In the professional HCI community, both Deborah and Steve have given many years of high-level service, especially to the ACM DIS and CHI conferences. 

Lasting Imprints

They jointly led a research lab in CHCI called THIRD lab, which combined Deborah’s Pragmatics of Educational/Emotional Technology (POET) Lab and Steve’s h.Lab. Their work made fundamental advances in our understanding of designing technology for humans, and in particular on theories and methods for describing and studying HCI phenomena. 

Steve and Deborah initiated a workshop in 2016 on the theme of What Comes after CHI? PSI (People, Systems, Information), with outside speakers including Paul Dourish, Lilly Irani, Peter Scupelli, and Niklas Elmqvist. It grew into an annual event on this theme of the Future of HCI. The workshops have been held annually on different sub-themes since 2016. The annual workshop series is now one of the key initiatives of CHCI, and will be remembered as one of the most lasting contributions made by Deborah and Steve.

While their scholarly contributions are considerable, Steve and Deborah have also made a significant impact on the lives of the students they taught and mentored. For many years Deborah was the faculty supervisor of the student-run Association of Women in Computing (AWC) at VT. It seeks to promote and retain women in computing fields, through regular informational meetings (on topics of interest), community building, and professional development.

They will be remembered equally just as much for their strong convictions, their thoughtfulness in all aspects of life, their hospitality, and the personal impact they’ve had on their students and colleagues.

Read more about Deborah and Steve’s passion for teaching, interacting with students,and being active faculty of the CHCI. 

--With permission, adapted from an original article written by Doug Bowman and Andrea Kavanaugh.