The IT Girls program is designed to introduce young women to technology and learn about women’s impact in the field. The program aims to build community between the participants by working together on hands-on activities with guest speakers, workshops, lectures, projects, and the building of a professional portfolio. Participants get an intimate view into what their future in IT could look like. From building a website to creating an artificial intelligence teachable machine, creating a data analysis to understanding your digital security, the program offers access to a broad range of topics.
Having been involved for six years, Laurie Ferger is an iSchool database, coding, and web development professor, and now the lead faculty member for the IT Girls program. The current program is bringing high school students from all over the world to the campus for two weeks in the summer. The students range from rising sophomores to graduated seniors, but they all share an interest in discovering more about information technology, and potential careers that could follow that education. “The primary goal is to introduce technology to young women and bring in diverse technologies to give them exposure to what is going on in the world right now,’ says Ferger.
This program is unique because there is no other experience available for high school students to expose them to such a variety of different technologies. Along with the subject matter and educational aspect of the program, there is also the social side of the experience. Students get to interact with peers from all over the country with different backgrounds and get a taste of living on a beautiful college campus for a couple of weeks. Ferger notes that she currently has two students in one of her college classes that met during an IT Girls session a few years ago – they became roommates and attended the iSchool together after the IT Girls program.
Ella Farrell grew up in California and is presently a student at the iSchool. She credits her experience with IT Girls for getting her there. In talking about the iSchool’s introductory course and her experience with the IT Girls program, she says “One of the most impactful parts of the program for me was sitting in on the IST-195 lecture. That was the first time that I understood what college is like. As a senior in high school I had this idea of what college was like, but actually sitting in on a class and seeing college students interacting with the professor and understanding that dynamic was really impactful; not only in my choice of attending Syracuse University, but in general for what I wanted to get out of my college experience.”
Farrell greatly valued the connections that she made with other students during her IT Girls experience. The collaborative nature of the program encouraged students to interact and share their work with each other. Those relationships also helped her acclimate to the cross-country move that she made to attend the iSchool. Now wrapping up her junior year, Farrell is getting ready for a summer internship in government consulting, and hopes to carve out a career in the same industry after graduating. Her double majors in information management and technology and policy studies have well-prepared her for that professional trajectory.
While the mission of IT Girls is to empower, motivate, educate, and change the perception of girls and women in information technology, It Girls is open to everyone, regardless of their sex, gender, or gender identity.