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Maria Klawe

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Maria Klawe
Klawe in 2015
5th President of Harvey Mudd College
In office
July 1, 2006 (2006-07-01) – June 30, 2023 (2023-06-30)
Preceded byJon Strauss
Succeeded byHarriet Nembhard
Personal details
Maria Margaret Klawe

1951 (age 72–73)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Spouse(s)Nicholas Pippenger, 1980
ChildrenTwo children
Alma materB.Sc., University of Alberta, 1973
Ph.D., University of Alberta, 1977
Board member ofMicrosoft, Broadcom
Scientific career
Computer science
ThesisStudies in amenable semigroups (1977)
Doctoral advisorAnthony Lau

Maria Margaret Klawe (/ˈklɑːv/ KLAH-vay; born 1951) is a computer scientist and served as the fifth president of Harvey Mudd College from 2006[1] to 2023. Born in Toronto in 1951, she became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2009. She was previously Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton University. She is known for her advocacy for women in STEM fields.


Klawe was born in Toronto, Ontario. She lived in Scotland from ages 4 to 12, and then returned to Canada, living with her family in Edmonton, Alberta.[2] Klawe studied at the University of Alberta, dropped out to travel the world, and returned to earn her B.Sc. in 1973.[2] She stayed at Alberta for her graduate studies, and in 1977 she earned her Ph.D. there in mathematics.[3] She joined the mathematics faculty at Oakland University as an assistant professor in 1977 but only stayed for a year. She started a second Ph.D., in computer science, at the University of Toronto, but was offered a faculty position there before completing the degree.[2] When she made the decision to get a PhD in computer science she had never studied the subject before. There weren't many undergraduate classes at the time so she enrolled in upper-level courses and studied about 16 hours a day to do well. She spent eight years in industry, serving at IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California, first as a research scientist, then as manager of the Discrete Mathematics Group and manager of the Mathematics and Related Computer Science Department. She and her husband Nick Pippenger then moved to the University of British Columbia, where she stayed for 15 years and served as head of the Department of Computer Science from 1988 to 1995, vice president of student and academic services from 1995 to 1998, and dean of science from 1998 to 2002. From UBC she moved to Princeton and then Harvey Mudd College, where she is the first woman president.[4][5] When she arrived at Mudd only about 30% of students and faculty were female. Today about 50% of the students and over 40% of the faculty are female.[6][7] She became a citizen of the United States on January 29, 2009.[8] Later in 2009, she joined the board of directors of the Microsoft Corporation.[9]

Awards and honors[edit]

Klawe was inducted as a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery[10] in 1996, a founding fellow of the Canadian Information Processing Society[11] in 2006, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences[12] in 2009, a fellow of the American Mathematical Society in 2012,[13] and a fellow of the Association for Women in Mathematics in 2019.[14]

In 1997 she was selected as an NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering (CWSE) at the University of British Columbia, one of only five in Canada.[15]

She has been awarded honorary doctorates from Ryerson Polytechnic University[16] in 2001, the University of Waterloo[17] in 2003, Queen's University[18] in 2004, Dalhousie University[19] in 2005, Acadia University[20] in 2006, the University of Alberta[20] in 2007, the University of Ottawa[21] in 2008, the University of British Columbia[22] in 2010, the University of Toronto in 2015,[23] Concordia University in 2016,[24][25] and McGill University in 2018 [26]

She was the winner of the 2014 Woman of Vision ABIE Award for Leadership from the Anita Borg Institute.[27][28]

In 2018 she was featured among "America's Top 50 Women In Tech" by Forbes.[29]

She also served as the president of the Association for Computing Machinery from 2002 to 2004, and in 2004 won the A. Nico Habermann award.[30]


Some of Klawe's best-cited research works concern algorithms for solving geometric optimization problems,[31] distributed leader election,[32] and the art gallery problem,[33] and studies of the effects of gender on electronic game-playing.[34][35] With Peter Shor, Shlomo Moran, Alok Aggarwal, and Robert Wilber, Klawe invented the SMAWK algorithm, a matrix-searching algorithm with applications in computational geometry.[36] She founded the Aphasia Project, a collaboration between UBC and Princeton to study aphasia and develop cognitive aids for people suffering from it, after her friend Anita Borg developed brain cancer.[37][38]

Advocacy for technical women[edit]

Klawe has been heavily involved with increasing the representation of women in STEM fields.[39] While Klawe was the dean at UBC, she became the NSERC-IBM chair for Women in Science and Engineering. She was in charge of increasing female participation in science and engineering. During her five years as the chair appointment she increased female computer science majors from 16% to 27% and increased the number of female computer science faculty from 2 to 7. In 1991, together with Nancy Leveson, she founded CRA-W (The Computing Research Association's Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research) and served as its first co-chair.[40] She was also a personal friend of Anita Borg and served as the chair of the Board of Trustees of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology from 1996 to 2011.[41] Klawe was a huge advocate for salary negotiation by women, disagreeing with Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella, when he said "It's not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise. That might be one of the initial 'super powers,' that quite frankly, women (who) don't ask for a raise have. It's good karma. It will come back."[42]

Klawe believes that women should take an entry level computer science course during their first year at college that focuses on portraying the field as fun and engaging rather than trying to convince women to stay. She believes that if programming courses are taken at the middle school level then they have another four years of high school for peer pressure to get them disinterested again."[43] This is what she does at Harvey Mudd. She attributes the lack of women in technical fields due to how the media portrays women. In an interview with PBS she explains how TV shows in the 1970s showed men along with women who had successful careers such as doctors or lawyers and that caused the number of women going into medicine skyrocket.[43] Klawe emphasizes that the introductory courses offered need to be presented in a problem-solving environment, not a competitive one where a few males dominate the conversation. Klawe believes the "testosterone culture" prevents women from continuing on with CS because the males that know everything scare away anyone who is trying to learn.[44] Currently, Klawe is working on helping biology majors learn computer science by working with UCSD to create a biology themed introductory computer science course. Another project she's working on is an online course called MOOC aimed at 10th grade students.[45]


Klawe has also exhibited her watercolors.[4][5][46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Maria Klawe Named Fifth President of Harvey Mudd College". HMC Spotlight. Harvey Mudd College. January 17, 2006. Archived from the original on June 29, 2007. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Semuels, Alana (March 15, 2009), "Microsoft did the math, chose her", Los Angeles Times: B2.
  3. ^ Maria Klawe at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  4. ^ a b Ezarik, Melissa (July 1, 2006). "Diamond in the Mudd: the many facets of Maria Klawe, Harvey Mudd College's new leader". The Free Library. Retrieved February 23, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Flynn, John (February 18, 2015). "Bits and Beauty". Metro Silicon Valley. p. 31.
  6. ^ "Interview with Maria Klawe - CRA Women". cra.org. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  7. ^ "Student Enrollment Profile – Women". hmc.edu. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
  8. ^ "President Klawe Becomes U.S. Citizen". HMC Spotlight. Harvey Mudd College. February 20, 2009. Archived from the original on August 3, 2012. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  9. ^ Fried, Ina (March 9, 2009). "Microsoft adds new board member". CNET. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  10. ^ "List of ACM Fellows". Retrieved October 15, 2013.
  11. ^ "CIPS Fellow Members". CIPS (the Canadian Information Processing Society). Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  12. ^ "List of Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences" (PDF). Retrieved October 15, 2013.
  13. ^ List of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society, retrieved January 27, 2013.
  14. ^ 2019 Class of AWM Fellows, Association for Women in Mathematics, retrieved October 7, 2018
  15. ^ Government of Canada (July 2021). Evaluation of the Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering Program.
  16. ^ "Ryerson Honorary Doctorates". Retrieved October 15, 2013.
  17. ^ "Waterloo Honorary DMath Degrees". May 18, 2012. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
  18. ^ "Queen's University Honorary Degree Recipients" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 16, 2013. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
  19. ^ "Dalhousie University Honorary Degree Recipients, 2000-2009". Retrieved October 15, 2013.
  20. ^ a b "President Klawe to Receive Honorary Degree". Archived from the original on October 15, 2013. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
  21. ^ Maria KLAWE, 2008 | Doctorats honorifiques | Cabinet du recteur
  22. ^ "List of 2010 Honorary Degree Recipients at UBC". Retrieved October 15, 2013.
  23. ^ "Convocation 2015: Maria Klawe receives honorary degree from U of T". U of T News. University of Toronto. June 19, 2015. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  24. ^ "Convocation 2016: Maria Klawe receives honourary degree from Concordia". Concordia University. October 12, 2016. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  25. ^ "Citation Honorary Degree 2016". Concordia University. November 2016. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  26. ^ "Convocation 2018: McGill University Spring 2018 honorary doctorates". April 27, 2018. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  27. ^ "Maria Klawe - AnitaB.org". AnitaB.org. March 13, 2014. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  28. ^ "Abie Awards - AnitaB.org". AnitaB.org. Archived from the original on August 7, 2017. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  29. ^ "Maria Klawe". Forbes.
  30. ^ "Habermann Award Archive". Retrieved October 15, 2013.
  31. ^ Aggarwal, Alok; Klawe, Maria M.; Moran, Shlomo; Shor, Peter; Wilber, Robert (1987), "Geometric applications of a matrix-searching algorithm", Algorithmica, 2 (1–4): 195–208, doi:10.1007/BF01840359, S2CID 7932878.
  32. ^ Dolev, Danny; Klawe, Maria; Rodeh, Michael (1982), "An O(n log n) unidirectional distributed algorithm for extrema finding in a circle" (PDF), Journal of Algorithms, 3 (3): 245–260, CiteSeerX, doi:10.1016/0196-6774(82)90023-2.
  33. ^ Kahn, J.; Klawe, M.; Kleitman, D. (1983), "Traditional galleries require fewer watchmen", SIAM Journal on Algebraic and Discrete Methods, 4 (2): 194–206, doi:10.1137/0604020.
  34. ^ Inkpen, Kori; Upitis, Rena; Klawe, Maria; Lawry, Joan; Anderson, Ann; Ndunda, Mutindi; Sedighian, Kamran; Leroux, Steve; Hsu, David (1994), ""We Have Never-Forgetful Flowers In Our Garden:" Girls' Responses To Electronic Games" (PDF), Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 13 (4): 383–403.
  35. ^ Inkpen, K.; Booth, K. S.; Klawe, M.; Upitis, R. (1995), "Playing together beats playing apart, especially for girls" (PDF), Proceedings of CSCL: 177–181, doi:10.3115/222020.222164, ISBN 0805822437.
  36. ^ Aggarwal, Alok; Klawe, Maria M.; Moran, Shlomo; Shor, Peter; Wilber, Robert (1987), "Geometric applications of a matrix-searching algorithm", Algorithmica, 2 (1–4): 195–208, doi:10.1007/BF01840359, MR 0895444, S2CID 7932878.
  37. ^ The Aphasia project Archived February 19, 2007, at the Wayback Machine web site.
  38. ^ Cook, Michelle (February 5, 2004), "UBC Project Makes Life Easier for Those Suffering Aphasia" (PDF), UBC Reports, 50 (2).
  39. ^ Morehead, James (September 10, 2011). "Harvey Mudd College President Maria Klawe on Women in Science, Math and Engineering". OneDublin.org. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  40. ^ "Past and Present Chairs of CRA-W".
  41. ^ "Transitions". Archived from the original on October 15, 2013. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
  42. ^ "The Perfect Case Against Microsoft CEO's Remark That Women Shouldn't Ask For Raises". Fast Company. October 14, 2014. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  43. ^ a b "Bridging the Gender Gap: Why More Women Aren't Computer Scientists, Engineers". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  44. ^ "Harvey Mudd President Maria Klawe: How to Close the Engineering Gender Gap". The Accelerator. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  45. ^ "How One College Is Closing The Computer Science Gender Gap". NPR.org. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  46. ^ Lee, Rachel (February 20, 2015). "A colorful blend of art and science". Mountain View Voice. p. 13.

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