Kay Wijekumar, associate professor of information sciences and technology (IST), takes her job as a part of Penn State’s research faculty seriously, but jokes that it gives her too many gray hairs.
For the past few years, she’s been working on a project called the Intelligent Tutoring System for the Structure Strategy (ITSS), which aims to increase reading comprehension for students in grades 4 through 12.
Wijekumar recently received a $3 million grant for the project, one of several she has received over the past few years.
When not working on her research projects, Wijekumar teaches freshman and senior-level courses at Penn State Beaver. Her favorite part of teaching is watching the light bulbs go off over her students’ heads.
“I can insist on maintaining the highest quality possible,” Wijekumar said about her classes. “The student’s success is my success.”
Each year Wijekumar takes a group of her students on a trip abroad, with past locations including Spain and Singapore. She enjoys seeing her students experience IST from an international prospective for the first time.
The benefits of pursuing an IST degree at Beaver can be endless.
“The projects we use in IST are real projects with real clients,” she said. “This is something most people wouldn’t get anywhere else.”
Wijekumar was named Outstanding Academic Advisor in 2008 by the Student Government Association and, two years earlier, she received the Penn State Beaver Advisory Board Faculty Excellence in Research Award.
Wijekumar is proud of the connections she has formed with her past students. She has pictures of them around her office and hears from them from time to time.
“I keep track of all my students,” she said. “I have a whole network of people. I think of us as a family, and the students also reciprocate that.”
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