Viral Essay Inspiring Change In UW Computer Science Department

Apr 22, 2016

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A viral essay written by a University of Wyoming computer science student is inspiring real change at the university.

UW Freshman Catherine Clennan wrote Being A Dumb Girl In Computer Science, which was picked up by the Huffington Post and shared on social media more than 1,000 times. In the essay Clennan writes about overcoming her fears to ask for help with coding and programming, helping other women ask for help, and her hope to create coding software that will celebrate failure as part of the learning process. She says the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

"It’s touching to see how many people identify with it. The negative responses you know I just don’t pay any attention to them because it’s the internet. And I just feel the power is kind of in the positive," says Clennan.

Jeff Clune, an assistant professor in the computer science department, says after faculty and staff read the essay they decided to include it in the computer science department’s Teacher Assistant orientation.

"We think that having all our TAs read her essay and put themselves in her shoes might change how they interact with people and make the overall department more welcoming for women," says Clune.

Clune says changes to the Teaching Assistant orientation will be in place for Fall of 2016.