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Meet Marie desJardins, 2017 Educator ABIE Award Winner


Marie desJardins, this years A. Richard Newton Educator ABIE Award recipient.

University of Maryland educator Marie desJardins is this years recipient of the A. Richard Newton Educator ABIE Award, which recognizes educators who develop innovative teaching practices and approaches that attract girls and women to computing, engineering, and math.

Credit: Anita Borg Institute

The A. Richard Newton Educator ABIE Award recognizes educators who develop innovative teaching practices and approaches that attract girls and women to computing, engineering, and math. University of Maryland educator Marie desJardins is this year's A. Richard Newton Educator ABIE Award winner, and will accept her award as part of the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC), October 4–7 in Orlando, Florida.

Marie is a Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering as well as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs of the College of Engineering and Information Technology at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). Her commitment to empowering female students extends back to her own college years, when she established the Big Sister peer mentoring program while President of the Women in Computer Science and Engineering organization at University of California, Berkeley. At UMBC, she is an active participant in the Women in Science and Engineering Sponsorship Committee, providing guidance, support, and feedback to female junior faculty as they prepare their tenure packages and navigate the promotion process.

We spoke with Marie recently to talk about the award and the path that brought her here.

What led you to a career in computer science?

I've never been a super gadgety, techie person. But I really like computers as problem solvers; we should all be using them to help us do what we're trained to do.

I was always pretty good at math when I was a kid, and I liked doing puzzles, word games, solving problems. Before the days of computer games, I remember going to the Toronto Science Museum where they had a display of computers with little CRT screens where you could play tic-tac-toe against the computer. I stood there playing it for a long time, and I thought it was amazing that the computer was beating me. That started something in the back of my mind, although I wasn't consciously thinking, "Oh. I want to figure out how that works."

Then, in high school, I had the chance to take a couple of community college classes. One was a Fortran programming class where we programmed on punch cards. You would hand in your stack cards, and they'd run it on their mainframe and give you a printout with the output. And I loved that class. I loved the puzzle of it, the trying to figure out how to make the computer do what I wanted it to do. And then, when I went off to college, I was a computer science major from the beginning.

 

From Anita Borg Institute
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