Vetria Byrd named head of computer science at JMU


by Dorian Crawford ('27)

Vetria Byrd

Vetria Byrd, a visionary in the realm of data visualization, will step into the role of head of JMU's Computer Science (CS) Department after a nationwide search for leadership excellence.

Byrd, currently serving as the associate department head of Computer Graphics Technology at Purdue University, brings a proven history of leadership, mentorship, successful acquisition of research funding, and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration.

As the first member of her family to earn a Ph.D., Byrd holds a doctorate in computing and information sciences and a master’s in biomedical engineering.

After earning her degree, Byrd specialized in the study of data visualization – presenting extensive data sets through charts, graphs, and other visual aids, playing a pivotal role in making complex data accessible to a broader audience. “Data visualization is a common thread that enables the integration of STEM disciplines – functioning as a catalyst for communication, a conduit for collaboration, and as a mechanism for broadening participation,” explains Byrd.

Byrd’s passion for data visualization led her to pursue research in all its forms. In 2023, she earned the Seed for Success Acorn Award for accumulating $1 million in research grants. In concert with this research, Byrd has taught at the collegiate level for over 12 years.

Beyond the classroom, Byrd has been a driving force in applying data visualization to real-world scenarios. She is an integral part of the Data Visualization Society’s Advisory Council, where her work has broadened the data visualization field and fostered inclusivity.

Byrd's dedication to expanding interest can be witnessed through the Broadening Participation in Visualization Workshop (BPViz), which she founded in 2014. This biennial event aims to build a community of current and future scholars interested in visualization through mentoring and capacity building. BPViz also reaches out to underrepresented groups, including marginalized communities and women.

Alongside her technical expertise, Dr. Byrd has also been very active in applying her work to critical issues in society and broadening participation in computing,” says Bob Kolvoord, Dean of JMU’s Integrated Science and Engineering. “Combined with her interdisciplinary leadership experience and work at Purdue, Dr. Byrd is poised to be an innovative and insightful leader propelling our Computer Science department forward.”

Byrd has set ambitious goals for both her growth and the advancement of the CS Department. She plans to lead by example, working closely with faculty to develop a strategic plan for the future. Additionally, she aims to help the department meet current and anticipate future needs, addressing topics such as artificial intelligence and globalization. “My background and experience will enable me to discern future trends and capitalize on them for the benefit of JMU, the college, and the department.”

Byrd will join JMU in July 2024, taking over for Sharon Simmons, who has been the CS department head for over a decade.

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Published: Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 7, 2024

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