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Cornell IT women presented at girls’ summer technology camp

By Jesse Dix

In July, Patrice Prusko, an instructional designer in Academic Technologies, and Priscilla Cancar, a Cornell student in the College of Arts and Sciences, gave a presentation at TST BOCES Girls’ Technology Camp on STEM careers and following your passion.

The goal of the camp is to introduce girls of color and girls who come from low-income families, ages 11-14, to history, career opportunities, and initiatives in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) communities.

The camp addresses a multitude of issues specific to women in the computer science, technology, and digital design field, including the disparities in number of women in the field, as well as economic disparities between women in men in STEM careers.

Prusko and Cancar’s presentation included advice for the girls on how to choose their career path, rely on their own ability to understand themselves, explore their options, discover their expectations, and motivate themselves to begin the journey. The presentation highlighted historical and current examples of women whose pursuit of knowledge and STEM influenced society as a whole.

“Growing up I didn’t have any female engineering role models or know about the wide range of careers one can follow with a STEM degree,” Prusko stated. “I think it’s great that programs like this exist and I’m honored to have the opportunity to be a part of these girls’ stories.”

Prusko also spoke about the most recent advancements in education and how that is making STEM careers more easily accessible for women. She discussed the benefits of using MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) to explore different subject matters, to meet role models and mentors, as a study tool for high school courses (such as AP courses), and to prepare for college level courses (for example taking summer classes to prepare for a difficult schedule in the fall).

Debra Howell, the IT director for Cornell's Infrastructure Properties and Planning, presented to the girls on advancements in areas such as fashion, website design, video game making, and several other technologies.

“Kristi Cooley (my co-presenter) and I were so impressed with the girls' passion, engagement, and intelligence,” Howell said. “We learned as much from them as they did from us! The dedication of their teacher, Penny, is incredible. She truly wants to make the future brighter for these talented young women. The girls had spent the week coding, building robots, and all sorts of other cool techy things. We were thrilled to be a part of their experience.”

The message the organizers hope to convey to the girls is that there are plenty of opportunities for women to thrive in science and technology fields, and they can do so by engaging with areas and projects that speak to their interests. 

Jesse Dix is a summer intern for Academic Technologies and a Senior Communication student in CALS.

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