Pellissippi State awarded grant promoting women in IT

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Pellissippi State Community College has won a $1,000 grant to help encourage women in computing and information technology programs.

“In some of my computer science and information technology classes, I’m the only woman or in the minority among mostly male students,” said Christy Watson, a Computer Science and Information Technology student and author of the application for the Symantec Student Seed Fund grant.

The grant—administered through the National Center for Women and IT Academic Alliance—will be awarded to the college’s student chapter of the Association of Information Technology Professionals. Watson is the Pellissippi State AITP’s vice president and secretary.

“I think women often relegate computers and technology to being the equivalent of ‘gaming,’ or they feel that they’ve outgrown their interest in computers,” Watson said.

“That’s the norm in many information technology and computer classes: that there are few women, or that women feel intimidated in the computing and IT fields,” said Gitti Negahban. Negahban is faculty advisor for the AITP chapter at Pellissippi State.

The chapter plans to use the NCWIT Academic Alliance grant to host an event for local female high school and Pellissippi State students to raise awareness of career opportunities in computer science and information technology. The promotional event is planned for spring.

“We are excited about and grateful for the opportunity to share and be an influence on young women in their career choices,” Watson said.

“The NCWIT has a goal of increasing diversity in the computing and IT fields,” said Sharon Burlingame, “because diversity increases creativity and helps everyone find better solutions.” Burlingame is program coordinator of the CSIT degree program at Pellissippi State.

“We’re excited to help forward that goal. Everything we do to help women will also help everyone else.”

The NCWIT Academic Alliance includes more than 275 colleges and universities. The program is charged with implementing institutional change in higher education, particular in providing access to leading-edge best practices for recruiting and retaining women. Symantec, a NCWIT sponsor member, is a computer security software corporation and Fortune 500 company.

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