Computer Science

Meet Irina Rabkina of computer science, whose research interests lie at the intersection of artificial intelligence and cognitive science.

What attracted you to Occidental?

I first visited Oxy with my parents as a high school junior (long before Oxy even had a computer science department!). That visit convinced me that I belonged at a liberal arts college for undergrad, and indirectly led me back here years later. I am particularly excited about how ingrained the computer science department is with the liberal arts curriculum here at Oxy, and about how collaborative and interdisciplinary it is. (Read the Los Angeles Times article on this subject)

How has remote learning impacted your approach to teaching?
I have wanted to try a flipped classroom approach for a while—there is a lot of evidence that it’s the best way for students to learn (a type of blended learning where students are introduced to content at home and practice working through it in class). As I was planning my remote classes, it became clear that a flipped classroom was also a great way to give student the flexibility they need this semester.

How have you been connecting to students?

I am impressed by how quickly Oxy students have adapted to the challenges of remote, and sometimes asynchronous, education. They make the most of Zoom office hours and face-to-face class time, but are not afraid to reach out when they need support outside of those times. I’ve found the Slack platform to be particularly handy for creating a sense of community—students aren’t able to drop by my office to see if I’m there, but they can send me a Slack message.

How do you balance your research with your teaching?
Students in my classes are learning the techniques and technologies that I use in my research, so I’m looking forward to getting some of them involved!