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UT Dallas and NCWIT Honor 30 North Texas High School Women For Their Outstanding Technical Accomplishments at the NCWIT Aspirations Awards

Last March, as part of an ongoing effort to encourage more young women to choose careers in technology, the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) in conjunction with UT Dallas recognized thirty high school women, sixteen of whom had received the NCWIT Affiliate Award for Aspirations in Computing and fourteen who had received Honorable Mention, as well as one educator for their accomplishments and aspirations in computing and technology. The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing (AiC) builds a talent pool for the growing technical workforce and helps academic and corporate organizations celebrate diversity in computing by honoring young women at the high-school level for their computing-related achievements and interests. Since its inception in 2007, the Aspirations in Computing Award has honored over 6,400 high school women who are active and interested in computing and technology.

DSC_0027NCWIT’s Aspirations in Computing talent development program strives to increase participation of young women in technology careers by providing them with visibility, community, scholarships, and internships. NCWIT works with over 900 companies and organizations around the nation. The NCWIT Aspirations in Computing program is sponsored by top tier companies such as Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, Bloomberg, Google, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Northrop Grumman, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions Foundation, Qualcomm, and Symantec.

The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing was created to encourage the computing aspirations of young women, introduce them to leadership opportunities in the field, and generate visibility for women’s participation in technology fields. Award recipients are selected and acknowledged based on their aptitude and aspirations in technology and computing, leadership ability, academic history, and plans for post-secondary education. The award recipients are commonly offered scholarships, internships, research opportunities, and other educational and employment opportunities provided by NCWIT Alliance Members.

During the NCWIT AspirationDSC_0048s award ceremony held last March at the UT Dallas residential halls, the award winning women, as well as their family members, came together to celebrate all their accomplishments, technical achievements, and their love of computing and technology. The evening started with an icebreaker networking session where the award winners had the opportunity to talk with visiting female technologists from leading tech companies including AT&T, Bank of America, Tech Titans, and State Farm. UT Dallas Computer Science and Software Engineering students also came to talk with the Aspiration Award winners.

Following the icebreakers, Jannie Fernandez, the NCWIT TECHNOLOchicas and K-12 Alliance Program Manager, warmly welcomed the award winning women and their family members. She started the evening by talking about the award itself and about all the good the NCWIT does for women of all ages in technology saying, “The Aspirations in Computing Award is only just the beginning of your relationship with NCWIT as well as the beginning of your journey into computing.” She continued on, saying, “So with that in mind, if there are any other ways that NCWIT can help you and support you through that journey please let us know, we are here for you.” Fernandez further told everyone about the many scholarship and internship opportunities, as well as her favorite part of the NCWIT community, which includes access to an invitation only Facebook group of technical young women in the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Community.

Following Ms. Fernandez were the keynote speakers Citlali Barron Galera, a UT Dallas CS Student who is currently finishing her 3rd year at UT Dallas, as well working as a State Farm Intern on their Campus Development Team, and Anje Grady, a State Farm Project Solutions Test Manager. Both women spoke about their roles at State Farm as well as their journey through technology all while encouraging the young women in the room to continue with their hard work.

Ms. Galera is not only a computer science student but also serves as President of the Society of Hispanic Engineers at UT Dallas. She is also in her third semester as a Campus Development Team intern for State Farm. This summer she will transition to the full-time System Internship Program. Ms. Galera has been able to practice what she has learned at UT Dallas while simultaneously learning languages and systems from her internship. Next fall, she will begin the Fast Track Program DSC_0128where she will take courses credited towards a Master’s Degree in Computer Science. Ms. Galera passed on to the women in the room one piece of advice that has always stuck with her, “I want to encourage all of you to speak up. Don’t let anyone not let you speak because within the engineering field the people are very strong and stubborn a lot of the time.” She continued on, saying, “You need to make sure you get your thoughts across and that you are heard because as women, there are a lot fewer of us in the field, so always make sure to make yourself known and make yourself present.”

The evening ended with the award ceremony where the award winners received an engraved plaque from NCWIT and a prize package of items from several of the NCWIT’s participating sponsors. Two members of the tech industry as well as devoted NCWIT members, Lisa Frey and Barbara Stewart were on hand to present the awards to the winners. You can read about the accomplishments of the award winners by clicking here.

Among the 16 DFW Affiliate Award and 14 honorable mention winners was National Award Recipient, Saumya Rawat, a junior from the School of Science and Engineering in Dallas. Over the past several years, Saumya has been learning and achieving goals in multiple technical fields of computer science and STEM. Ms. Rawat programs in many languages including: Java, Javascript, HTML, IBM Bluemix, Flash, and App Inventor Android App Development. She uses Java in UIL Computer Science competitions, at University of Texas at Dallas Java Development Programs, and in her freshmen AP Computer Science class.NCWIT-2017-8 She also has developed apps with MIT & Google’s App Inventor software at competitions at the University of North Texas (2nd place) and at Cisco (1st place). Apart from traditional computer science, Ms. Rawat has done impressive research in the Biotechnology field. She was selected into the highly competitive Nanoexplorers program of 2015 & 2016 at the University of Texas at Dallas. She identified and analyzed the vibrations of artificial muscle fibers using Raman Spectroscopy under the mentorship of a UT Dallas professor during her sophomore year. Currently, she is developing and analyzing a new approach to create implantable medical devices that could be used to study the nervous system and ultimately treat neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease. She won the 2016 Siemens Competition regional finalist award with this project and hopes to continue competing to increase recognition for her novel approach. Once again, computer science has appeared in the identification of the electrochemical characteristics of the shape-memory polymer coated implantable technology and has furthered her interest in a field that needs the involvement of more females.  After attending college and finishing her PhD Computer Science, she hopes to start her own technology-based company that would provide innovative solutions to various industries by creating life-saving applications. As a female entrepreneur in the technology field, Ms. Rawat will create programs, such as Aspirations, to encourage other women to become involved in the field of computer science.

The NCWIT Aspirations Award honors not only DSC_0171high school women, but also educators as well. The Aspirations in Computing Educator Award identifies outstanding educators who play a pivotal role in encouraging young women to explore their interest in computing and technology and recognizes these educators for their efforts to promote gender equity in computing. Ms. Bhagyashri Chander received the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Educator Award. She is a mentor, coach, and educator at the Academic Center of Science, a nonprofit after-school enrichment program that she founded with the goal of bringing advanced concepts in science to middle school and high school students.

The UT Dallas Computer Science Department offers a strong community for female technologists by holding monthly talks presented by the Grace Series, where students are able to hear empowering talks from fellow female members of the tech field, as well as student-run organizations like the Women Who Compute (WWC) club and the Society of Women Engineers, both of which are highly active groups.  The department provides students with plenty of opportunities to attend events such as the Grace Hopper Conference (see story here) and other conferences and/or events.

Dr. Janell Straach, UT Dallas CS professor, works closely with the NCWIT to ensure that technology-minded women at UT Dallas have a strong community by hosting events, award ceremonies, luncheons, talks, clubs, and trips outside of the UT Dallas Campus. She works tirelessly with the UT Dallas Computer Science department to inspire high school and middle school girls and to get them interested in the world of computer science by holding residential camps on the UT Dallas campus She has been working with the winners of this years NCWIT Aspirations award winners to create the upcoming ‘IT Empowerment For Her’ summer camp for middle school girls! The UT Dallas CS Department ran two residential camps for young women during the month of June 2015: the NCWIT sponsored Connect-Inspire-Guide Camp for Incoming Female Freshmen and The Techy Girls Residential Camp. (See story here).

NCWIT GroupPictured above are the award winning women that were able to attend the event celebrating their accomplishments. 

The UT Dallas and the UT Dallas Computer Science Department, the University of North Texas, and the NCWIT sponsored the event at the UT Dallas campus.

Click here to see all the photos from the event.


ABOUT THE UT DALLAS COMPUTER SCIENCE DEPARTMENT

The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 2,100 bachelor’s-degree students, more than 1,000 MS master’s students, 150 PhD students, and 86 faculty members, as of Fall 2016. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.

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