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Student Club Organization Profiles

Women in Computing and Science

Women in Computing and Science

Advocates for Equal Opportunity

Women make up almost half of the total United States workforce, but only 25% of women are currently working in the computer and mathematics fields according to the National Girls Collaborative Project. At The College of New Jersey, wics profile 1the Women in Computing and Science (WICS) club has aimed to increase that number by raising awareness of sexism in the workplace and encouraging young women to realize that both men and women can be successful in computer science.

“It’s not enough for the women to be present; they have to be given an opportunity to speak,” says Dr. Monisha Pulimood, advisor to the WICS club. Here at TCNJ, Pulimood serves as Chair of the Department of Computer Science, which has an almost equal amount of men and women – an equilibrium that she would like to see expand into the future workforce her students will soon enter.

The WICS club brings together men and women to talk about gender issues in computer science and provide a safe space where they can talk openly about gender microaggressions in the field. President of WICS, sophomore computer science major Brittany Reedman, explains, “What our organization aims to do is to show women that are really interested in technology that they are not alone – we are there for them. We want to provide support when they go to their job and there are no other women there, or they are in a class and it seems like someone’s disrespecting them because of their gender or because someone isn’t listening to their ideas.”

Reedman believes that it is important to include men in the club because the main point of the organization is to promote gender equality in the workforce – and that can only occur if both genders are on the same team. Reedman says, “We want men to understand our mission. Change isn’t going to come by just letting women know that they are not alone. Change is going to come by getting men to understand that we are a presence in this field and having them as allies to support us and encourage us to be in this field.”

wics profile 4The all-inclusive club sparked the interest of junior computer science and interactive multimedia major Kevin Bohinski because he was able to hear how everyone had different challenges within the major. In February 2016, the club hosted TCNJ Hackathon, an event that challenges students to turn an idea into a workable app within 24 hours, and according to Bohinski, 25% of the participants who signed up were women. While he wishes to see that number increase at future events, he knows that the only way that will occur is if men and women in the department support one another. He believes that, “It’s the male’s role to not do anything that’s oppressive and to make sure that everyone feels included.”

The club also hosts events and brings speakers to campus to provide connections and networking opportunities as well as to inform women and men about possible job opportunities and what they can be doing now to prepare for the future job market. This semester the club has brought to campus TCNJ alum Gloria Broeker, Class of ‘93 and Chief Operating Officer of Information Technology for the State of New Jersey, and Lauren Farese from the global wics profile 3computer technology corporation Oracle. The club recently attended a ‘women in computer science’ event hosted by the Google office in New York that, according to Reedman, resembled a “big playground” where WICS members got to meet more women in the computer science field. She believes that “All these top companies are realizing that they are going to be missing out if they don’t encourage these really smart people from both genders to enter the field.” The club has also implemented a “Lean In Circle” on campus, which, according to leanincircles.org, are “small groups who meet regularly to learn and grow together” and allow women and men “to talk openly about gender issues.”

WICS’ members also believe it is imperative to discuss relevant events or topics in the news and also practice interviewing skills to complement their computer coding experience. Reedman believes that presentations by speakers and events that WICS has hosted provide hope for women in the major, because these not only educates them on job opportunities in computer science, what skills they need to succeed, and how to combat sexism in the workplace, but also that the sky is the limit for what they can achieve.

For those interested in attending a WICS club meeting, meetings are typically held from 3:30-4:30 pm on Wednesdays.

– Kaitlyn Njoroge

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Association for Computing Machinery

Association for Computing Machinery

ACMEventPhotoThe Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is a student organization for those interested in computer science. Through different activities, ACM helps its members explore further what they have learned from their classes.  Senior and ACM President Brandon Gottlob says, “As a computer science major, there are many different skills to learn and ways to apply and expand upon the concepts from courses. This can take the form of research projects, personal projects, working with different programming languages, and devices to develop on.”

First-year computer science major Henry Shen says, “I wanted to join ACM because I wanted to immerse myself in the field that I probably will spend a lot of my adult life and career in. Any opportunity to gain more knowledge and experience is great.” Jabari Brown, another first-year computer science major, agrees. “I joined ACM to put myself around like-minded individuals. Since then, I have learned so much that can help me in the field.”

Gottlob adds, “The only way to gain awareness of so many topics is to learn about them from others. I saw taking a leadership position in ACM as a great way of creating a more collaborative community among TCNJ students interested in computing and creating a medium where people can be exposed to the wide range of things they can accomplish with computers and programming.”

During weekly meetings, ACM plans varied activities that are both engaging and fun.  Gottlob says, “Most of our meetings are discussions about specific topics in computing or tutorials on programming languages, platforms, and tools.”  Shen adds, “We do tutorials on important computer science topics such as how to use Github (a web-based software hosting service), what the compiler differences are between programming languages, and more.”  In addition, ACM also holds fun events throughout the year such as ice cream socials and game nights to encourage members to interact with each other outside of their primary area of interest.

TCNJHackGroupphoto2The annual Hackathon is an important part of ACM, which this year was held on February 26-28, 2016.  Gottlob explains, “The largest event we hold once per year is HackTCNJ, a 24-hour event known as a hackathon where students from schools all over the northeast come to develop their own software applications. At the end of the 24-hour period, students’ projects are judged and prizes are awarded. Because we are funded by sponsor companies, the event is completely free for all participants and food is provided throughout. We estimated that we hosted about 200 college and high school students with a very large majority from colleges in the tri-state area, like Rutgers, Temple, Drexel, Monmouth, Rowan, West Chester, and TCNJ of course. We had over 30 project submissions as well. It was by far our biggest HackTCNJ to date.”

There are many benefits from joining ACM.  For first-year and transfer students, it is a great way to get involved within the department and learn more about computer science.  Gottlob says, “Joining ACM will help new students gain exposure to a wide range of skills and perspectives that they won’t find in the classroom. This exposure could help them gain interests in specific topics and languages that distinguish them from the rest of their peers and that they could pursue in research and personal projects throughout their time at TCNJ.”

ACM also allows students to get to know the upper-level students on a more personal level.  “Many people transfer out of computer science because it can be very intimidating to beginners, and getting to know the ACM members can show new students that their struggles are actually common since many upper-level students have similar experiences,” adds Gottlob.  Brown agrees. “Freshmen and other students should get involved with ACM because it is a very good way to connect with students and faculty in the department. You share ideas and learn interesting topics related to computer science that will help develop your future.  It is a great way to explore your interests within computer science.”  Shen also hails the benefits of joining ACM.  “If you want to be in an environment that is supportive for new programmers and people with little computer science experience before becoming a CS major, this is a great place to learn and ask questions. In order to gain experience in computer science, taking the plunge is the first step.”

TCNJHackAs a whole, ACM reflects the important values within TCNJ’s computer science department.  As Brown says, “Everyone within the department is really friendly.”  Shen adds, “Everyone is super nice and really fun to be around.”  Gottlob concurs. “All of the CS professors are very approachable and encourage all students to participate. I try to cultivate the same attitude in ACM by establishing an open environment where the ideas and participation of any member is highly valued, no matter his/her level of experience.”

– Gabrielle Okun

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