WiCS Circle Encourages and Empowers Women In Computer Science
Once a month Dr. Suzanne Balik can be found leading a group of young women in technology over dinner and dessert. The circle format of the group promotes inclusion, and gives even the most shy student the chance to speak. Balik makes the sessions engaging and uplifting, encouraging women to find their potential in the challenging field.
The group, founded in 2015, focuses on ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to participate, not just those who are particularly outspoken. Balik formed the group to start discussions between a large variety of students using many tools including conversation cards with topics that encourage discussion such as: “What are you most proud of?” and “What do you find most difficult?”.
“I wanted to do something to reach out to students, especially underrepresented students. I also wanted to be a faculty representative to see if maybe there was something I could help with, like a course being too difficult.”
This year’s specific focus was on helping women become empowered using different methods including the ever-popular TED Talks. Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders by Sheryl Sandberg and Power Posing: Change Your Body to Change Your Mind by Amy Cuddy, were two particularly popular talks among the women.
As a faculty member, Balik is able to recognize areas that the students may be struggling with, and offer a solution.
“We are also able to help with issues with courses that students are taking. For example, one time we invited a TA for a particularly difficult course to help them set up software, thereby giving them practical help with the course.”
The value of the WiCS Circle effort was recently affirmed by a Thank a Teacher commendation stating:
“I met you at the WiCS club meeting and was so surprised that you are the professor of my first computer science class. I learned a lot, including not only how to program and interact with computers, but also being confident as a woman in computer science and to never give up trying.”
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