DigiGirlz – Women in STEM

On October 3, 2017, in Events, St. Louis Business Community, by Walker News

Volunteers at the St. Louis Digigirlz Event

On September 26, 2017, Microsoft hosted an event at the St. Louis Science Center called DigiGirlz, which is a Microsoft YouthSpark program. Microsoft states that DigiGirlz “gives high school girls the opportunity to learn about careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops.” Throughout the day, the girls had the opportunity to listen to women who are technology executives, participate in technology tours and demonstrations, network, and learn with hands-on experience in workshops. The workshops gave the girls an opportunity to work in groups and created wearable devices that solved a specific problem.

The event had a great turnout, including 165 girls, 51 schools, 32 chaperones, 42 invited guests, and 45 Microsoft volunteers. Several Gorloks from the Walker School of Business & Technology made an appearance and an impact. The women of Webster who attended include: Simone Cummings, Dean of the Walker School of Business & Technology, Martha Smith, Chair of the Mathematics & Computer Science Department, Tanja Vidic, Jasmine Lich, and Jennifer Brainerd who are undergraduates from the Computer Science department, and Katy Meyer, Graduate Assistant for the Walker School and International Relations (MA), ’18. These women were invited to the event by Webster alum, Chad Lich, Computer Science (BS) who now works for Microsoft. Dr. Cummings said that she was proud to extend the support of the Walker School because, “I’m interested in helping girls learn more about careers in business and STEM fields.”

DigiGirlz by Microsoft

During a portion of the day called “Women in Technology Networking Session,” Webster’s volunteers had the opportunity to eat lunch with the young girls and talk about how to market themselves and work on personal branding. They talked about what they wanted to be known for and how they could accomplish that goal. The volunteers worked as personal mentors to the girls that they spoke with, and helpedto guide them based on their passions and interests. Meyer’s advice to her table was to encourage them to pursue their passions, but be open to change. The other women also provided advice on how to work on their goals and become the women they want to be. Dean Cummings said, “We were all asked to tell the girls something we wanted them to know going forward.  I told the girls at my table that the one pearl of wisdom I would give would be to develop a plan for moving forward because if you don’t have a plan, it’s really difficult to achieve your goals.”

The women from Webster were proud to represent the Walker School, offering perspective to young girls looking to join STEM careers, and they hope to see more events like this in the future.

 

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Lasanthi Gamage

On December 12, 2016, in Faculty Insights, by Walker News

Dr. Lasanthi Gamage joined the Walker School of Business and Technology this fall in the Computer Science and Mathematics department where she teaches classes in both subjects.

Dr. Gamage grew up in Sri Lanka and decided from a young age that she wanted to pursue computer engineering. College education is free in her home country, therefore Universities are very selective. She successfully passed the exam for admittance at one of the best colleges in Sri Lanka at the age of 18. Thankfully she excelled in her chosen subject because if she had not, she said, “there would have been no way to go back.”

Immediately after graduation, Dr. Gamage spent six months in the industry followed by six months when she returned to academia as a lecturer until she decided to study again herself. This is when she made the move to the United States. Up until this point, she had never traveled outside her Sri Lanka.

Again, success followed Dr. Gamage at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota for her masters, and then at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla for her PhD. Dr. Gamage enjoys her time in the U.S. and after 9 years of residence here, she considers it a home. She compliments the U.S.’s infrastructure and respects the freedom to make personal decisions. However, she says the food in the U.S. just can’t top the food from her home.

Dr. Gamage plans to visit Sri Lanka, so she can see her extended family again, but has been busy starting a family here. Her husband is also a professor who teaches at the Southern Illinois University- Edwardsville and they have two sons and one daughter on the way.

Dr. Gamage says she is dedicated to her family, but also wants to continue research at the Walker School. She plans to expand upon her PhD research in Data Management by focusing on vehicle information that makes life easier by providing intensive traffic information. She also wants to expand her research to include big data in social media with goals to make it safer. Social media gathers a lot of information and she seeks to send some of that information back to users. To make social media even safer, she wants to locate fake accounts so she can prevent them from causing harm. She has ambitions to start researching more as a department and finding ways to include students in that research.

Finally, Dr. Gamage says she greatly appreciates the global focus of Webster University. She looks forward to the opportunity to teach at one of the campuses abroad so she can experience more of the world. The Walker School is happy to have Dr. Gamage as a faculty member and look forward to her contribution to students.

Dr. Hu – Welcome to the Walker School!

On November 9, 2016, in Faculty Insights, by Walker News
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Dr. Kaoning Hu, Assistant Professor, Math & Computer Science Department

Hu knew he wanted to be a teacher from a young age, but originally studied Electronics and Engineering. When he began performing well in courses geared towards computer science, he made the decision to pursue a PhD in the field.

Hu considers technology to be growing at a rapid, unpredictable pace, and stresses the importance of studying the human sciences.  He believes, “we should consider human factors more than equations” and “have experience in human science so we can know humanity better.” Hu’s thoughts align well with the liberal arts emphasis and global view of the Global Citizenship Program. He is a strong supporter of the study abroad opportunities at Webster University and says, “if students have the opportunity, they certainly should study in another country. It’s not just to study some courses, it’s to observe the culture of another country.”

Hu is excited to further his research in the interactions between humans and computers at the Walker School. He looks forward to teaching the art of computer science to students and then work alongside them to further his understanding of the human factors of the field.

Dr. Jim Curtis, Assistant Professor of Cybersecurity & Computer Science

Dr. Jim Curtis, Assistant Professor of Cybersecurity & Computer Science

This year, the Walker School of Business and Technology welcomes a new faculty member that truly embodies the Webster University mission and values: Dr. Jim Curtis.

Dr. Curtis is an assistant professor of Cybersecurity and Computer Science. He has lifetime career experience in the Cybersecurity industry at the federal and private levels. He had been teaching courses as an adjunct professor until the opportunity arose to dedicate his career fully to educating.

Curtis grew up in Gilman, Illinois, and studied at Texas State University and the University of Oklahoma. As a young man, Curtis considered an occupation as a history professor. This was inspired by one of the most influential figures in his life, Abraham Lincoln. Despite forgoing that path, he was later able to be a part of American history himself by serving in the Air Force. Curtis dedicated 25 years of service to our country in the Air Force, including a tour in the White House as a communications officer for President Bush (41) and Clinton.

Curtis describes the job of a White House communications officer as one that took him “all over the world,” where he was a part of many historical moments. Some of the moments that stand out to him include: having dinner in the Queen’s Throne Room in Buckingham Palace, riding in Air Force One, viewing the signing of the START II nuclear treaty by President Bush and President Gorbachev in the Kremlin, witnessing Clinton nominate Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, and Michael Jackson singing at Clinton’s Inauguration. His military experience includes spending 2,000 hours in EC-135 “Looking Glass” aircraft and serving in the Gulf War.

After retiring from the Air Force, Curtis worked in private industry at A.G. Edwards until the events of 9/11. At that point, he decided he wanted to serve the country again. He then worked on government defense contracts at SRA International as a Vice President until transitioning to full-time teaching.

His experiences have given him the ability to integrate real cybersecurity experiences and scenarios into his curriculum. He is enthusiastic about the importance of the program and its high career projections. Curtis believes that academia is a crucial component to private and public partnerships to unite for the common goal of cybersecurity in America.

His career experiences and global perspectives will greatly enhance the program and have a lasting benefit to students. We are very fortunate to welcome such a valuable asset to the Walker School family.

Trish Dillender, representative, Math & Computer Science Department, and Lisa Foss, undergraduate advisor and graduate recruiter, Webster Leiden, share the Employee Spotlight Honors for the month of January 2013.

Trish Dillender‘s nominator credits her with “keeping everything running smoothly” during the Fall semester when the department chair was in Thailand.

Colleagues appreciate Trish’s ability to juggle many different tasks at once. “She is very thorough,” says the nominator. “Without her, we would be lost.

“She is a great asset to the Department of Math & Computer Sciences.”

Twenty-one years ago, Trish came to work at Webster as a department assistant at the St. Peter’s campus, and she has been with Math & Computer Science since 2000.

Trish enjoys the pleasant working environment in her office and the University and really enjoys working with faculty and students.

Touching the lives of students is especially meaningful for Trish. A student who stands out in her mind graduated last December. “He made a special trip to my office to thank me for all of the assistance he received during his four years with Webster,” says Trish. “He was so thrilled to be graduating he beamed from ear-to-ear. It was truly a rewarding moment.”