Debra Richardson

Debra Richardson

Debra Richardson
Irvine, California


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NCWIT Pacesetters UCIrvine - Debra Richardson Debra Richardson: I'm Debra Richardson, Professor of Informatics and founding dean of the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, at the University of California, Irvine. At UC, Irvine, we have worked hard over the years to increase the number of women in computing, both before and during our participation in NCWIT. Today, I just want to talk about one aspect of that that we have been doing as a part of our Pacesetters effort where we are reaching out to women who are already on campus. We started a conversation across the campus about the need for all students to be computationally fluent in the 21st century, regardless of their major. We hope that some day every student will have to take a course in computing, that prepares them with computational thinking skills to enable them to better use today's technology, but also to contribute their own insight to tomorrow’s technology. Unfortunately, given all the stakeholders at the university, that will be a long conversation. In the meantime, as part of our Pacesetters effort, we’ve introduced a number of general education courses, such as Environmental Issues in IT, Human Factors for the Web, Social Impacts of Internet Technologies. These are all targeted towards individual students who wouldn't normally come to computing, who wouldn't have an interest in computing, and especially towards women. We have also packaged these courses together as a minor, called Digital Information Systems, that enables a student who might not want to become a programmer, to actually become familiar and fluent with computation and information systems. We can't track the number of women who have an interest in pursuing the minor, but we do know that over half, actually 61 percent, of the students, in those courses I talked about, are women. Now that's net new women. Another factor at UC, Irvine, is that over 30 percent of the computing faculty are women. These women take a genuine interest in serving as role models for young women who are exploring the option of computer science. We hope, we expect, that that will enable us to contribute even more net new women to the picture.

My Story...

In October 2011, I sat in the red chair share progress towards our goal. At UCI, we’ve introduced a set of non-major courses, covering topics such as the social impact of Internet technologies, human factors for the web, end environmental issues in information technology, and others. These courses are targeted to students who might not otherwise consider a course in computing, especially women We’ve also developed a minor in Digital Information Systems that packages these courses together with upper division courses for students who want to learn about information systems, computation, and digital communication without preparing to be computer programmers. Although we can’t tell how many women might be pursuing the minor, we do know that over half of the students enrolled in these courses are women. Now that’s an achievement!