Faculty Spotlight

Dean Marie desJardins Delivers Keynote at SIGCSE 2019

Dean desJardins tells us about her talk at the Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education Conference.

The College of Organizational, Computational, and Information Sciences Dean Marie desJardins was asked to deliver the keynote at the SIGCSE Conference (February 28-March 2) when her colleague, Freeman Hrabowski (whom she was scheduled to introduce), was unable to travel to Minneapolis. We caught up with her after the whirlwind to learn about her talk, "Pursuing the Dream: A 50-Year Perspective on American Society, Technology, and Inclusion in Computing."

"It was important to me to incorporate a tribute to my mentor and role model Freeman Hrabowski's mentorship and commitment to diversity in STEM," desJardins says, "including showing part of his 2013 TED Talk on the Four Pillars of College Success in Science."

Dean desJardins emphasized the importance of diversity and inclusion in the field. "I also talked about the history of computer science over the last 50 years, alongside the history of computer scientists over that same period, emphasizing the decline in gender diversity and the continued dearth of other types of diverse perspectives in the field. As I said in the talk: it's simply not plausible that women thought they were good at computer science in 1985 (when they were 37% of undergraduate majors) and then somehow decided they weren't, with the percentage of women dwindling to around 15-20% today. So there are clearly other factors at work."

However, the potential for diversity and growth is encouraging. "I shared concrete messages on what computer scientists, educators, and 'dominant culture allies' can do to make a difference in making the field more diverse. I believe that we are at a pivotal moment for computing, when practical applications are everywhere, job opportunities are increasing, and there is substantial interest in expanding access to CS education in K-12 and higher education. Now is the time when we should focus all of our energies on ensuring that the future of computing looks like the rest of the world."

For more information about Dean desJardins' keynote, check out her slides from the presentation! 

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