Fusing a love of dance with technology
Clemson professor Shaundra “Shani” Daily started out as a gymnast and danced her way into the field of affective computing.
Daily’s dancing days sparked creative project ideas that blend the arts with science, technology and engineering. Her innovative style caught the attention of nationally recognized news magazine Diverse Issues in Higher Education, which lists Daily as a 2013 Emerging Scholar. She and 11 other educators were recognized in this month’s edition of the publication.
Known for its focus on matters of access, equality and opportunity for all people in higher education, the news magazine annually honors shining star educators. All selected scholars are under 40 years old with proven abilities to lead and inspire.
From passion to career
As a young girl, Daily flipped for gymnastics.
“I was a gymnast for nearly 10 years, but after a while, my knees didn’t want to cooperate,” Daily said. “Plus, I had a slight fear of vaulting, so I ended that journey.”
Daily’s mother took her very flexible daughter to a dance studio the same day she left her gym. Daily never skipped a beat.
“I didn’t want to end up in ‘baby classes,’ so I didn’t share with anyone that I had never taken a dance class,” Daily said. “Fortunately, there is some overlap between dance and gymnastics.”
Daily’s impressive moves led to advanced classes in pointe, jazz, tap and acrobatics during her first year in the dance studio. She also appeared in the 1996 Olympics opening ceremony and made appearances at the Grand Ole Opry, Disney World and various professional sporting events.
The now accomplished dancer had even bigger dreams. In high school, she considered joining the FBI because of her zeal for solving problems, but her love for the arts and working with people got the best of her.
Daily earned a B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University-Florida State University College of Engineering.
She left Florida and moved to Cambridge, Mass., to pursue a master’s and doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Daily is the second African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. from the Media Lab, which is known for interdisciplinary research that blends technology and the arts.
Daily’s love for music led to work at MIT on a project called RoBallet, a program that fuses dance, learning and technology. She also worked on a number of projects with the Affective Computing Group at MIT to support children and adults by helping them reflect on their emotions and build empathy for each other.
Daily is now a second-year assistant professor in Clemson’s Human-Centered Computing (HCC) division of the School of Computing.
“I’m determined to continue designing creative pathways for women and minorities to become interested in computing careers as well as helping those students perform well on culturally diverse teams when they enter the workplace,” Daily said.
Problems motivate Daily to find solutions. That’s one reason she joined HCC at Clemson where the division’s lab motto is “changing the world.”
“Dr. Daily is a fast rising star and we are excited to have her in HCC,” said professor Juan Gilbert, Presidential Endowed Chair in Computing and HCC chair. “Her research embodies the true spirit of HCC by integrating people and technology to address societal issues.”
Daily also is an Institute for the Advancement of Healthcare scholar at Clemson. To learn more about her areas of expertise, visit www.clemson.edu/~sdaily and http://www.clemson.edu/ces/computing/news-stories/sdaily.html.
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