UNION, N.J. – Two Township of Union residents are among the students in a Kean University student group, the Association for Computing Machinery Women (ACM-W), which has received a $3,000 grant to encourage women in computer science on campus. Kean's ACM-W is one of the Fall 2016 award recipients of the NCWIT & ACM-W Student Seed Fund, sponsored by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) and Google.org. The grant, which supports the growth of women in computing groups at different stages of development and varied institutional sizes, will help launch the ACM-W chapter on Kean’s campus.

Stephanie Eordanidis, former ACM-W chapter chair, and current chapter treasurer Carina Belino, both of whom are from Union, worked with Juan Li, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Kean Department of Computer Science, and other undergraduate students to prepare the proposal. Together, they look forward to building Kean’s ACM-W student chapter.

"The ACM-W chapter is exciting," said Patricia Morreale, Ph.D., executive director of the Kean University School of Computer Science. "Dr. Li's record of success with her students is outstanding, and this grant will bring even more student engagement in our programs."

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With the start-up funding, Kean University ACM-W will provide student membership fees for founding members. Funds will also be used to organize career fairs, guest speakers and an information session to help members achieve success in computer science and information technology fields. Another objective of the funding is to create a platform in which underrepresented female computer science and information technology students could gather together to share ideas, experiences, support one another and network.

“Student computing groups are an important component of the undergraduate experience and should not be overlooked or undervalued,” said NCWIT chief executive and co-founder Lucy Sanders. “These student-led efforts serve as a foundation of encouragement and support for aspiring technical graduates and professionals.”

In the U.S. in 2014, women earned 57 percent of all undergraduate degrees. However, women earned less than one-fifth of all computer and information sciences undergraduate degrees and engineering degrees, according to NCWIT. Women in computing groups on campus can increase women’s confidence and enjoyment of their technical studies, help reduce feelings of isolation, dispel common myths and stereotypes, and empower students to actively recruit and mentor other women.