March is Women's History Month!
Last year's Women's History Month's national theme was Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The theme honored generations of women who throughout American history have used their intelligence, imagination, sense of wonder, and tenacity to make extraordinary contributions to the STEM fields. At UMBC we honored last year's theme by partnering with the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) to feature some of their amazing students participating in technology in the engineering and information technology fields.
Since last year's spotlights were so meaningful and successful in highlighting the important work of women in STEM fields, we're back at it for year two. This year's national theme is Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment. Though there is no specific mention of STEM, it is impossible to deny that acts of courage and commitment from women (and their allies) in STEM occur everyday. So with that, we are honored to bring you the 2nd Annual CWIT Showcase in honor of Women's History Month
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Courtney Melissari, Senior Information Systems Major
Describe what sparked your interest STEM and the journey to choosing your major.
My interest in STEM dates all the way back to when I was a child. I grew up rebuilding old computers with my dad. He never purchased a brand-name computer; we'd always go to computer conventions, buy parts, and build them ourselves. I remember thinking the inside of a computer looked so cool! I was fascinated by all of the different parts and how they came together to run.
As I grew up, I had less and less opportunities to toy with my interests in technology. In high school I became more interested in science and engineering. I joined CWIT in 2010 as a Chemical Engineer. But after programming in ENES 101 that spring, I rekindled my love for technology and switched my major to Information Systems. I ended up exactly where I belong!
Tell us about an internship, research experience or project that you are proud of.
I'm really proud of the IS Capstone project that I completed last fall. My team and I worked with my Dad's office to evaluate and improve a legacy system that they have in place. It was such a cool experience because it was the first time I had ever worked with a real system at a real business. The project definitely had its challenges, but the experience was so worth-while because our work really made an impact on the way that office does business. It felt good to apply my skills to help them achieve better productivity.
Who are your role models in the engineering or IT field?
My Aunt is actually a huge role model in my life. She was a single mom working at Macy's who decided to go back to school to pursue Computer Science in a time when there were not many people in the field. She then became a programmer for the State of Maryland and worked on several, important projects during her 30 year tenure. She is the one person I can go to when I need to vent about or discuss anything related to technology and my future career. She is always there with supporting words and thoughtful guidance. I'm lucky to have her as a role model!
In your experience, how has being a woman in engineering or IT demanded character, courage or commitment?
When I started in this program almost four years ago, I was one of the only women in my IT classes. A few years and two internships later, I still find that women are still outnumbered by men in both academia and industry. Because of this, it takes a lot of courage to persist in this field. You have to be very confident in yourself and in your abilities; make yourself known and make sure your voice is heard. Always tell yourself that you are capable and never let anyone convince you otherwise!
The Center for Women In Technology (CWIT) is dedicated to increasing the representation of women in the creation of technology in the engineering and information technology fields. CWIT efforts begin with nurturing a strong group of Scholars, grow to building community resources for other women in these majors, extend to fostering a healthy gender climate and ITE pedagogy in College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT) departments, and finally expand into outreach efforts to increase interest in technical careers. A successful program for female-friendly engineering and information technology education at UMBC will help make UMBC a destination for women (and men) interested in technical careers and serve as a national model for other universities.
Learn more about the CWIT community at http://www.cwit.umbc.edu/
For more information about Women’s History events and happenings, visit: http://my.umbc.edu/groups/womenscenter/news/41639