The 2014 It Girls cohort poses for their group picture on the steps of the Carnegie Library.

By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

High school women from the Syracuse region and nine states came to Syracuse University over the weekend for a future-focused program introducing them to the kinds of experiences they can expect at the University, the School of Information Studies (iSchool), and in an information and technology career.

The iSchool’s fourth It Girls Overnight Retreat participant group was the largest, most technically sophisticated, and most diverse cohort of young women to date, according to Julie Walas Huynh, director of academic advising and student engagement. The program was developed in 2011 as part of the iSchool’s initiatives to increase the number of girls and women entering information and technology educational fields and careers.

The group of nearly 100 students enjoyed workshops and challenges designed to introduce them to information science, and heard from several prominent speakers.They included Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud and Syracuse University Vice President for Research Gina Lee-Glauser. Syverud discussed the importance of the STEM disciplines in education and invited participants to consider Syracuse as a college possibility. Glauser spoke of how, as a 10-year-old watching Neil Armstrong step onto the moon, she was inspired to seek an education and career in engineering and research.

Helping host the event as mentors and volunteers were several dozen of the 57 former It Girl overnight attendees who have since matriculated to Syracuse University.

A look at the cohort data shows:  

  • Applicants: 287 (largest pool to date)
  • From: 133 high schools
  • Representing: 9 states
    (Texas, Tennessee, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey.)

Other distinguishing factors:

  • Highest GPAs: This cohort has the highest incoming grade point average of any of the past groups: 3.7.

  • Tech savvy: These students are more engaged with technology than any group before, having “a baseline [of skills] so much more experienced than in the past; they want to be challenged just as much as our traditional freshmen in college,” said Huynh. Participants also were “more career-focused, and they have narrowed their career fields; they’re not just exploring career fields anymore.” That skill level permitted advancing the programming from an introduction to the iSchool and a basic version of an iSchool class, to “jumping them right into a mid-semester class for traditional first-year iSchool students, then going to a lab to actually do what they just learned in class,” according to Huynh.
  • More local and Upstate NY participation:  Participants from large cities have been a focus in the past but this year, many rural, suburban, and local high schools were included. (They are: Nottingham, Cicero-North Syracuse, Skaneateles, and Christian Brothers Academy; and attendees from other upstate cities such as Buffalo, Rochester, and Albany.)