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Article - UNO CodeCrush program for young women will enhance and expand with additional support

UNO’s CodeCrush program for young women will enhance and expand with additional support

UNO’s CodeCrush program for young women will enhance and expand with additional support

Posted: Wed, Oct 9, 2019

Encouraging more young women to pursue STEM education, careers the focus of private giving need

The Peter Kiewit Foundation has awarded a challenge grant of $225,000 to the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) College of Information Science & Technology (IS&T) for its CodeCrush program, a series of events designed to introduce 8th- and 9th-graders to iSTEM, an integrated approach to studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

The funds, which are committed to the University of Nebraska Foundation, will specifically be used to help continue the program’s biannual immersion experiences and the annual Summer Summit for CodeCrush alumnae, teachers, mentors and other stakeholders. As part of this matching grant challenge, the University of Nebraska Foundation will work closely with UNO to secure an additional $225,000 in contributions over the next three years.

“The college’s programs are bigger, and more diverse, than ever before. We know this positive shift is thanks to efforts like CodeCrush,” Deepak Khazanchi, Ph.D., associate dean at the College of Information Science & Technology said. “Today, more and more students know that they have a place in information technology thanks to the continued support from the Peter Kiewit Foundation. As we look forward to the next chapter of CodeCrush, we hope to help eliminate the gender gap for good.” 

CodeCrush is part of the college’s Women in IT Initiative, a community task force of IT leaders dedicated to finding actionable solutions to close the gender gap and meet the local and national workforce deficit in IT. 

“We’re honored to offer our continued support to the College of Information Science & Technology and its efforts to make the tech workforce a more inclusive and diverse space,” Wendy Boyer, director of programs at the Peter Kiewit Foundation said. “This is an urgent call to the Omaha metro to support programs like CodeCrush, and together we can help inspire a diverse student population to pursue IT and help address the critical talent shortage our community is fighting.”

This fall’s CodeCrush will be held October 23–25, with the summer CodeCrush summit and spring CodeCrush immersion experience dates to be announced soon. For more information or to contribute to the program and help meet its fundraising challenge, see codecrush.unomaha.edu

CodeCrush combats the challenges and negative perceptions that may keep girls from pursuing IT education and careers. The immersion experience takes place over three days and three nights. Participating students take part in half-day educational workshops illustrating the diversity of IT with exposure to areas such as bioinformatics, cybersecurity, mobile application design and IT innovation.

Afternoon and evening sessions show IT in action through experiences such as tours of local Fortune 500 headquarters and an Omaha start-up company crawl, illustrating the vibrant community that is being nurtured and grown in Omaha. CodeCrush students also hear panel discussions and keynote speeches from leaders, current students, UNO alumni and many others who are mentors and role models in this domain.

Additionally, a major component of CodeCrush requires students to bring along a teacher-mentor who attends parallel workshops on how to infuse IT concepts into their current curricula and champion such skills and content in their schools.

During the summer, CodeCrush hosts an annual Summer Summit, which brings together all past CodeCrush participants, students who may not have been able to attend the immersion experience and the IT community. The day-and-a-half conference celebrates diversity in IT and helps introduce the audience to even more role models with varying tracks centered on leadership, technology and inclusive spaces.

CodeCrush has made significant strides in helping bring more awareness of IT careers into classrooms:

  • Nearly 300 students and teachers have participated in the CodeCrush immersion experiences.
  • More than 200 attendees have registered for the CodeCrush Summer Summit.
  • 90% of attendees said CodeCrush showed them that they could consider computing as a career.
  • 90% of attendees said they intended to take further computer technology classes.
  • Nearly 90% of participating teachers said they will incorporate more computer science ideas in their classrooms.
  • 25% of CodeCrush students from 2014-2016 have reported going into an iSTEM program at a four-year university.
  • 36% of students from 2014-2016 have enrolled at a University of Nebraska campus.
  • 40% of students reported that they are from rural communities.
  • 20% of students reported being in free- and reduced-price lunch programs.
  • 30% of students are underrepresented minorities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in computing and IT are expected to grow 13% from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average of all other occupations. The bureau reports the median annual wage for IT positions was nearly $90,000, compared to $40,000 for all occupations. Despite this expected growth, the number of available, qualified IT professionals is low, and women comprise just 26% of all computing-related occupations in the United States. According to Girls Who Code, the largest drop in participation of girls in computer science happens between the ages of 13 and 17.

For information about the Women in IT Initiative, or how to support it, contact Amanda Rucker, communications specialist for the College of Information Science & Technology, at 402-554-2070 or visit codecrush.unomaha.edu.

Today, more and more students know that they have a place in information technology thanks to the continued support from the Peter Kiewit Foundation. As we look forward to the next chapter of CodeCrush, we hope to help eliminate the gender gap for good.” Deepak Khazanchi, Ph.D. Assistant Dean
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