Computer Science is for Women

Rebekah Overdorf '12, a dual computer science and mathematics major, likes to solve problems. Besides solving the tough problems associated with higher math, Bekah is working hard to solve an image problem: she'd like to dispel stereotypes about computer science—common but completely erroneous beliefs such as "computer science is the study of computer hardware," or "computer science is for nerds who play war games," or, maybe worst of all, that "computer science is not for women."

The truth is, computer science is for anyone—and it can be the basis for a very successful and rewarding career, argues Bekah. Working with Matt Lang, assistant professor of computer science, she has taken the message to local Girl Scout troops and the Moravian Academy middle school. After giving a brief talk, Bekah and Melissa Andreas (math ed major), Jordan Pesce (computer science), and Meredith Lobb (math ed) lead smaller groups in games, puzzles, and other activities. Bekah then follows up with a discussion. "The idea is to show that computer science is fun—to replace the negative connotation with a positive one," she says.  

Dr. Lang and Rebekah, who is from the Nazareth, Pa., area, recently co-authored a paper ("Reaching Out to Aid in Retention: Empowering Undergraduate Women") and submitted it to the Special Interest Group in Computer Science Education 2011, the premier computer science education conference. If the paper is accepted, they may present it at the SIGCSE 2011 conference in Dallas next March.—photo and report by Michael Clark '12