With the Computer Science Department boasting record-breaking 40 percent women in its first-year class last fall, Carol Frieze's colleagues thought it was the perfect time to nominate her for Carnegie Mellon University's Mark Gelfand Award for Educational Outreach. After all, she's devoted the past 15 years to creating opportunities for women and underrepresented groups in computer science. She will accept the award at the Celebration of Education today at 4:30 p.m. in the Cohon University Center's Rangos Hall.
Established in 2009, the Gelfand Award is annually presented to a member of the university community who has combined sustained, effective community service with academic coursework and a deliberate process of student reflection to enhance the learning experience and teach social responsibility to students while improving some aspect of life in the community. Special consideration is given to individuals who focus on science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
Frieze has worked to develop and encourage academic, social and professional opportunities for women in computer science through Women@SCS, which she directs, and guided students working to develop a program of social, professional and leadership activities to broaden interest and participation in computing by underrepresented groups through SCS4ALL, which she co-founded last year
Frieze's extensive knowledge, experience, gentle guidance, availability and patient listening engage the many students in these organizations and encourage them to share their expertise while developing their own knowledge. Under Frieze's guidance, the students grow into teachers, speakers, leaders, organizers and mentors — professionals in technology who, in turn, pay all of this forward to others.
One of Frieze's signature strengths is her insistence that things are student-run. She guides students rather than doing things for them. She offers them leadership positions and allows them to shine. When asked to speak or present, Frieze often gives the opportunity to a graduate student instead.
At the request of a graduate student 10 years ago, Frieze started TechNights to introduce middle school girls to computer science. Hundreds of middle school girls have since discovered and explored computer science while having fun. Through the program, girls meet others interested in technology, sometimes for the first time.
Frieze and her students regularly promote computer science at "Roadshows" in schools, coffee shops and other venues. Frieze recruits and trains CMU student volunteers in response to requests from schools or programs at museums.
Every second year Frieze brings about 20 graduate and undergraduate CMU students to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference. Frieze and her students often present at Grace Hopper, sharing what they have accomplished here at CMU.
Her ten publications with Lenore Blum, Bernardine Dias, Jeria Quesenbeny and others present groundbreaking work in how to understand and increase women's participation in computer science.
Recently, she co-authored a book with Quesenbeny called "From Difference to Diversity: Women in Computing at Carnegie Mellon University," in which her primary objective was to share the success stories at CMU in the hope that other institutions and schools seeking to improve the underrepresentation of women in computing will have tried and true tools to leverage.