Seminars & Colloquia

Suzanne Balik


"The (hopefully not) Last Lecture: Lessons Learned in Nine Years of Teaching "

Friday March 13, 2009 11:00 AM
Location: 1226, EBII NCSU Centennial Campus
(Visitor parking instructions)


Abstract: Teaching the CS 1 course with its high DFW rate is one of the greatest challenges facing the computer science educator. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that writing even the simplest HelloWorld program in Java is quite complicated. Meeting the needs of students with a variety of learning styles and levels of experience adds to the difficulty.

Twenty-five years ago, the numbers of men and women in computer science courses were close to equal. Today many computer science departments report female populations of around 10%. In the words of Pete Seeger, 'Where have all the young girls gone' and why?

In 2006, Target Corp. was sued by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) over the inaccessibility of its website in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This lawsuit was settled out of court last summer costing Target over $6,000,000. For legal, ethical, and financial reasons, as well as to meet the needs of aging computer users who are more likely to incur a disability, software vendors must ensure that their applications are accessible. Students of programming versed in software accessibility will be more competitive in the marketplace.

Modeling my talk after The Last Lecture, the bestselling book by computer scientist Randy Pausch, I will address issues related to undergraduate teaching and attracting and retaining women in computer science. I will also address the increasingly important issue of universal software accessibility. Despite the serious subject matter, the talk will be lighthearted and informal, yet informative. Audience participation required.

Short Bio: Suzanne Balik is a Ph.D. student and adjunct lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at North Carolina State University. She also holds a position as a Graduate Assistant/Accessibility Developer with SAS Institute. Suzanne earned a B.S. with High Honors in Chemistry from Grove City College. After a brief stint as a Research Chemist at PPG Industries, she joined the Computer Applications Group at the T.R. Evans Research Center, Diamond Shamrock Corporation. As a Senior Analyst/Programmer there, she developed chemical data analysis systems, real-time chemical and pilot plant applications, and led the development of the research center budget preparation system.

She earned a Master's in Computer Science from North Carolina State in 2004. As an adjunct and visiting lecturer in the Computer Science department, she has taught over 2,000 students in 6 different courses ranging from Introduction to Computing to Automata, Grammars, and Computability. She also taught the AP Computer Science curriculum at Ravenscroft School for several years. Her Ph.D. research focuses on accessible software for the visually impaired and more specifically on making it possible for blind people to create and navigate combinatorial graphs. Please see for more information.

Special Instructions: PLEASE NOTE ROOM CHANGE TO 1226, EBII

Host: Dennis Bahler, Computer Science, NCSU

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