Computer Science Department

James Lee Peterson

James Lee Peterson

Key Academic Advisor

Director of Advising and Graduate Admissions

Contact information

Fax: (970) 491-2466
Voice: (970) 491-7137
Email for appointment -
Office: 274 Computer Science Building

General Description

James Peterson is the Key Academic Advisor and Director of Graduate Admissions in the Computer Science Department. His normal responsibilities include (inter alia):

Approach to Advising:

Advising is a resource for students to obtain expert advice on planning for graduation, policies and procedures, and dealing with unexpected and unusual situations. Advising is available to students by a number of means: appointments, email, and phone calls. Students should not hesitate to seek advice whenever they have a question or problem. We hope to make advice easy to obtain, and as clear and accurate as possible.

Advice to first-year students: take responsibility for your own education; the University can only facilitate learning, but in the end learning is something one can only do for oneself. It is a lesson that many learn too late (or not at all), and it hurts them once they leave the University. Do not get behind in classes, work ahead. When you have questions, ask them -- University faculty and staff are here to help you. If you don't get satisfaction, ask someone else. Do not sit back passively and be the victim of your surroundings -- take action to help yourself.

In computer science there are a number of opportunities for undergraduates to get involved in faculty research. It is not uncommon for faculty to request funding for undergraduate research help as part of their research grant proposals. The Dept also hires undergraduates to assist faculty with research. If you are particularly interested in the area of computer science in which a faculty member conducts research, go to their office and ask them about their research. They will be more than happy to discuss it with you, since it is to them the most interesting thing they do.

Academic Interests:

Since much of Peterson's academic background is philosophical, he is interested in philosophical questions raised by techniques and uses of computers. In particular he is interested in the relationship between human and artificial intelligence. His approach to these issues comes primarily from the European phenomenological movement, especially Husserl, Heidegger, Schutz, Ricoeur, and Merleau-Ponty.

Central to his concerns are issues related to the role motivation, willing, and choice play in human intelligence in conjunction with context and relevance.

Peterson is also very interested in privacy issues and the threat to personal freedom posed by the misuse of personal information by government and business. An article by Peterson on this issue can be found Here.

In the late 80's Peterson and Prof. Richard Kitchener in the Philosophy Department designed the the course PL305F, Philosophical Issues in the Information Sciences. This course was a technical elective (Group II) in the computer science major, and covers philosophical issues pertaining to artificial intelligence (cognitive science), especially as a critique of the "cognitivist hypothesis" that minds and computers are both fundamentally "computational" in nature, as well as ethical issues surrounding computers and their uses.

From the late 80's to the late 90's Peterson held a joint academic appointment with the Philosophy Department as Assistant Professor to teach PL305F during the fall semesters. PL305F is no longer taught regularly in the philosophy dept. though it would count as a technical elective for computer science majors.

A typical syllabus of PL305F as taught by Peterson is available.

Personal Information:

Peterson is originally from Appleton, Wisconsin, and has been the key advisor in the Computer Science Department since 1987.