Member Profile: Jerome Solomon

1. What do you do, and how long have you been doing it?

I have served as Dean of the College at Cogswell College for almost five years, providing leadership and oversight for all of the academic programs and faculty. I am also an Associate Professor here, teaching several classes in gaming, animation, and software engineering. Before joining Cogswell’s close-knit community, I worked in the Hollywood and gaming industries for 17 years – collaborating on numerous AAA titles at studios including Rhythm & Hues, ILM, DreamWorks, and Electronic Arts.

2. What was your first job?

My first job was at a Chevron gas station when I was in High School. I pumped gas, cleaned bathrooms, and cleaned the mechanics’ shop. It built a lot of character in me and made me appreciate a hard day of physical work.

When you’ve come home exhausted, reeking like gas and bathrooms, you appreciate these white collar job a lot more. My mom used to make me wash off with a water hose and scrub soap outside before I came in the house. I must have smelled awful!

3. Where did you complete your formal education?

I received my B.S. in Computer Science at UCLA, M.S. in Computer Animation at Georgia Institute of Technology and am currently pursuing my Ph.D. in Engineering at Santa Clara University.

4. How did you first get involved with ACM SIGGRAPH?

I first came to SIGGRAPH in 1987 under the recommendation of a college friend. I was interested in computer graphics and the community welcomed this young black kid with open arms. I met so many great, smart, and talented people that I knew I wanted to be involved and continue to attend. It felt more like family than a conference.

5. What is your favorite memory of a SIGGRAPH conference?

It seems like there are too many to mention. But, being the Conference Chair for SIGGRAPH 2017 was the privilege and honor of a lifetime. SIGGRAPH is much more than a conference. While it’s grown substantially since 1987, drawing 16,500 attendees from around the world, fundamentally it remains a family: a large and vast family of people who want to move computer graphics forward – and this experience left an indelible impression on me.

6. Describe a project that you would like to share with the ACM SIGGRAPH community.

I’m working on a VR project with the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. If it goes well, I’d love to contribute it to the conference. I’m also starting my own research and am eager to contribute. I’ve been fortunate to contribute to the conference previously. But, the quality standards are so high that it is super hard to get in! I hope I can do work that is good enough and moves our community forward.

7. If you could have dinner with one living or non-living person, who would it be and why?

I would have dinner with my dad. He passed while I was an undergraduate and I still feel that I have so much to learn from him.

8. What is something most people don’t know about you?

I have been handcuffed by the police three times but I have never committed a crime. Unfortunately, growing up as a Black man in America still has many challenges as you are easily wrongly accused, stereotyped, and assumed guilty. It is sad.

9. From which single individual have you learned the most in your life? What did they teach you?

I can’t fairly answer this question. I have learned from so many people and feel indebted to all of them. In addition, I have learned a 1-2 very valuable lessons from specific people. If I answered this question, those people would be excluded.

10. Is there someone in particular who has influenced your decision to work with ACM SIGGRAPH?

I think I would have to credit and thank Jessica Hodgins who was my Faculty Advisor for my Master’s Degree while at Georgia Tech. When I graduated and was working in industry in 2006, she encouraged and invited me to volunteer with her on the 2007 conference. It was an amazing experience!

11. What can you point to in your career as your proudest moment?

have to say when I won an NAACP Award from the Silicon Valley chapter. My father was a civil rights attorney in difficult times and I know this would have made him very proud. My whole family, including several of my SIGGRAPH family members and colleagues from Cogswell College were, at the ceremony. I was so honored to have them present. I deeply reflected on my dad, my kids, my family, my wife, my friends, and my life that night.

I feel fortunate and thankful to all the wonderful people who have helped me. I very much want to continue to be able to help others.