James Madison University

NEW COLLEGES FORMED A plan to reorganize the College of Integrated Science and Technology into two colleges took effect July 1, 2012. The new colleges are the College of Health and Behavioral Studies and the College of Integrated Science and Engineering.

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Computer Science Student Invited to the White House

By: Jordan Pye
Posted: December 7, 2011

Since receiving her invitation last week to attend the White House “Champions of Change: Women/Girls in STEM” event on Dec. 9, Computer Science major Marissa Halpert has been excited “like you wouldn’t believe.”

The event, held through the White House Office of Public Engagement, will recognize women who are “Winning the Future” with technology and will include a discussion of how to encourage girls to pursue STEM careers.  Halpert, a sophomore student from Richmond, VA, was invited as a notable guest. She will attend along with five fellow female students identified by Ruthe Farmer, the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the National Center for Women & Information Technology.   A reception will follow, hosted by the National Girls Collaborative Project, the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, and NCWIT. Halpert’s invitation is an honor for her and also for the JMU Computer Science program.
 
“I just love technology,” Halpert said, and this passion blossomed into achievement long before she came to JMU. Halpert received the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing in 2010, as a high school senior, while attending the Center for Information Technology at Deep Run High School, a specialty center through Henrico County Public Schools. She was among 32 young women recognized nationally for their computing-related achievements.

Halpert first saw the stereotype and gender gap in her CIT classes. She worked with school administration to create Girls of CIT, a club to bring together the few female students who comprised approximately one-fourth of her specialty center’s enrollment.

Last summer, she presented with Farmer at the Tapestry 2011 Workshop at the University of Virginia, discussing how to encourage diversity in middle and high school computer science programs. Her other professional experiences include an internship at Ukrop’s Super Markets and two consecutive summer internships at Bank of America, the national sponsor of the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing.

“The Aspirations Award has opened doors for me,” Halpert said. She hopes the recognition will continue to expand her opportunities down the road. Connecting with like-minded girls is something she enjoys, and she keeps in contact with past award recipients through a Facebook group.

“To get to know other technology girls is nice. It will be great to meet and talk to them [at the event] on Friday.”

Although the JMU Computer Science program is notoriously male-dominated by about 90 percent, Halpert had “wanted to go to JMU forever,” and found that there is “not as much of a gap as I was expecting.”

On campus, she is a member of the Women in Technology group, and is involved in the Student Technology Advisory Committee through the Information Technology department. Halpert works as an Undergraduate Lab Assistant for a Computer Science class. She is also a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi.

“It’s been great, I love the Computer Science department here,” Halpert said. “The professors are amazing and encouraging.”