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2004 Election for Board of Directors


Alva Couch

I am greatly honored to be nominated for the position of Secretary of the USENIX Board. As secretary, I promise fair, accurate, and timely recording of the Board's proceedings and decisions. I bring to the Board my experience and commitment to system administration as a discipline and profession, as well as my unique position as one of the few academic researchers exploring the theory of system administration. I have also worked closely with USENIX staff and been exposed to the realities of USENIX on many occasions, including serving as LISA Program Committee member for several years and as Program Chair of LISA 2002. I have worked closely with USENIX marketing staff to improve our public image and increase both our membership and attendance at USENIX events.

While I am well known mainly in the SAGE community, I feel strong allegiance to both USENIX and SAGE for the many contributions both organizations have made to my field and career. As a member of the USENIX Board, I will work toward the continued health and growth of both organizations and will do my best to fairly represent, balance, and address the needs of both constituencies.

The coming two years will include fiscal challenges and difficult decisions about the future of events and activities in a rapidly changing economic and professional landscape. I would describe myself as fiscally conservative but willing to take carefully calculated and creative risks whose success will greatly advance USENIX, provided that a failure does not have severe consequences. I will support creative new events and activities whose cost is low, whose benefit is high, and which do not reduce the value of existing events.

As an academic, I am acutely aware of a problem with the USENIX image that I would like to work to address. Many of my fellow academics do not take USENIX conferences and events seriously. They consider a paper in a USENIX conference to be less desirable than a paper in an ACM or IEEE conference. I disagree strongly with this opinion and believe that USENIX conference proceedings make a unique contribution to the literature that other publications do not address. Our emphasis upon practical solutions to real and timely problems makes a USENIX paper more difficult to write and, in my opinion, more valuable to the people who must solve the real problems.

Many paths to the future remain unexplored. USENIX and its activities attract a small percentage of the total number of people who could benefit from membership and participation. Links with other professional organizations such as ACM and IEEE remain relatively unexplored, and there seems to be some potential for collaboration. I think that the key to such collaborations is to work toward a common understanding of the unique value of USENIX and its activities in relation to its peer organizations ACM and IEEE, and the unique contribution that USENIX makes to the combined literature of all three organizations. I think that I am uniquely positioned to build this understanding first within USENIX itself, and then for my colleagues in our sister organizations.

Biography: Alva L. Couch was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he attended the North Carolina School of the Arts as a high school major in bassoon and contrabassoon performance. He received an S.B. in Architecture from M.I.T. in 1978, after which he worked for four years as a systems analyst and administrator at Harvard Medical School. Returning to school, he received an M.S. in Mathematics from Tufts in 1987 and a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Tufts in 1988. He became a member of the faculty of Tufts Department of Computer Science in the fall of 1988 and is currently an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Tufts. Prof. Couch is the author of several software systems for visualization and system administration, including Seecube (1987), Seeplex (1990), Slink (1996), Distr (1997), and Babble (2000). He served as Program Chair of LISA 2002 and received the SAGE Professional Service Award in 2003 for his contributions to the theory of system administration.

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Last changed: 22 Jan. 2004 aw