Creating Buzz for Computer Science

Here’s a sobering fact: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2018 there will be 1.4 million open technology jobs in the United States and, at the current rate of students graduating with degrees in computer science, we will fill only 61 percent of those openings. These predictions are all the more dispiriting when you realize that the latest advances in improving healthcare, protecting the environment, and upgrading manufacturing have come from technological innovations. I believe that no other field offers as much opportunity for students and society as computer science does.   This is why Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek)—the week of computer pioneer Grace Hopper’s birthday (December 9)—is so important: it’s our chance to inspire as many students as possible to pursue this field. CSEdWeek recognizes the critical role of computing in today’s society and the imperative to bolster computer science education at all levels.

Rane Johnson-Stempson helps high-school students understand rapid prototyping with .NET Gadgeteer from Microsoft Research.

In a way, it’s surprising that more young people aren’t going into computer science. As I travel the world and meet with students in middle school, high school, and college, I encounter a reoccurring theme: these students want a career where they can make an impact. They want to take on social issues, world issues, and be part of something bigger. This is where I explain to them that computer science is the field they want to pursue. Innovations in combating HIV, understanding the human genome, protecting the environment—these, I tell them, are just some of the urgent global needs that are being addressed with technology. It’s imperative that bright young people see the enormous potential for doing good through computing.

University of Washington Women in Informatics senior Kathyrn Kuan teaches students how to program their .NET Gadgeteer prototypes.  This is why, in conjunction with CSEdWeek, representatives from Microsoft Research and the newly formed University of Washington Women in Informatics headed to the Kent Technology Academy (a middle school) and Kent Meridian Technology Academy (a high school), to share with students what can be accomplished in the fields of computer and information sciences. We demonstrated how technology can help students understand the universe (with WorldWide Telescope); bridge the gap between science and the humanities (with ChronoZoom); develop games (with Kodu); and create mobile applications (with TouchDevelop) and rapid prototypes (with .NET Gadgeteer). We showed how social media can help us better understand human emotions and behaviors, which can lead to better healthcare, and, above all, we strove to convey the excitement and fulfillment that comes from engineering innovations and making tools that are used by millions across the world.

University of Washington Women in Informatics freshman Courtney Dutton helps students debug their code.I came away with a renewed respect for the teachers, as we hustled through six 55-minute sessions with only a short, 30-minute break for lunch. Typically, the teachers hurry through their meal and then grade papers during this short timeout, but they broke with their normal routine to talk with us about their students, their curricula, and the challenges and opportunities offered by computer science. It was heartening to hear their optimism about their pupils and the future of technology, and extremely humbling to be thanked for our participation in their efforts. I think Susan Whitehall, the principal at Kent Meridian Technology Academy (KMTA), said it best:

At KMTA, our goal is technology integration. Our teachers involve students in projects that are not necessarily about technology itself, but use technology to expedite, enhance, and expand all areas of learning. The partnership with Microsoft allows students to see what can happen when knowledge, technological expertise, and creativity all come together. Our students get to work with excellent role models and engage in high-interest, hands-on activities. Most importantly, this partnership helps remind students that they themselves are amazing human beings with limitless potential.

High-school students get debugging help from Rane Johnson-Stempson.That amazing potential was on full display during our visit, making it an enjoyable experience for everyone. For me personally, the most fun was working with students as they learned about rapid prototyping and industrial design through our .NET Gadgeteer platform. The students learned that computer science isn’t just sitting at a computer, programming in isolation. They discovered that the field also involves working on teams and creating tools that people use every day—items like digital cameras and media players. Given the short class periods, we could do only simple projects, but these were enough to make the students’ eyes light up and to prompt questions about where they can buy a kit. My eyes lit up, too, at the possibility of having inspired hundreds of budding computer scientists.

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Education and Scholarly Communication Principal Research Director, Microsoft Research Connections

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ChronoZoom wins Digital Education Achievement Award

Many of you have heard me talk passionately about ChronoZoom over the past year, especially about our goal to bridge the gap between the sciences and humanities through this amazing open-source tool, which strives to capture the history of everything. I love the amazing breadth of these ambitions.

Another thing I love about ChronoZoom is how it was created by the academic community, with assistance from Microsoft through Microsoft Research Connections. The academic part of the ChronoZoom team has had a very busy summer, delivering two releases independently, without any coaching from the Microsoft engineering team. I urge you to check out the new features and download the source code on Codeplex.

I had a fabulous time working with our community leader, Roland Saekow of the University of California, Berkeley, as we presented ChronoZoom at the International Big History Association Conference at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. I’d like to hand this blog over to Roland, to tell you about a great tribute the team received this summer!

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director for Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections

Three years ago, I was a student at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), taking a course on the history of everything. The course was titled “Big History: Cosmos, Earth, Life and Humanity.” Taught by Professor Walter Alvarez, it covered everything from the Big Bang to modern man. One of the most challenging aspects of a Big History course is grasping the timescales– all 13.7 billion years. To meet this challenge, Professor Alvarez and I set out to create a dynamic, zoomable timeline. Three years later, after much hard work by incredible teams of people, ChronoZoom received the seventeenth annual Digital Education Achievement Award.

Chris Engberg (left) and Roland Saekow (right) accept the Digital Education Achievement award on behalf of the ChronoZoom team from the Center for Digital Education, represented by Kristy Fifelski, New Media Dirctor, e.Republic Inc. (center).  Chris Engberg (left) and Roland Saekow (right) accept the Digital Education Achievement award on behalf of the ChronoZoom team from the Center for Digital Education, represented by Kristy Fifelski, New Media Director, e.Republic Inc. (center). Image courtesy of the Center for Digital Education

This award, which is presented by the Center for Digital Education (a division of e.Republic), recognizes the results of countless hours of planning, discussion, prototyping, and development—the collaborative efforts of dedicated and passionate individuals from all over the world. Our team includes software engineers, program managers, and project leaders at Microsoft Research Connections in Redmond, Washington, and students and professors at Moscow State University in Russia and at UC Berkeley. This dispersed team developed cutting-edge HTML5 code and implemented services on Windows Azure to create a rich, visual database full of historical events and timelines.

Roland Saekow answers questions during the Digital Education Achievement Award panelOne aspect of the ChronoZoom project I find fascinating is that students—undergraduates, graduates, and postdocs—wrote nearly 80 percent of the code in today’s beta release. This award recognizes the successful collaboration between experienced veterans of the computer science world and students who have been inspired and mentored with great care and passion to do outstanding work.   Work on ChronoZoom began as a dream—a hopeful vision into the future. Not only did the right people have to come together at the same moment, but they also had to learn to work together in near perfect synchronization to transform our dream into a reality.   I am very proud of everyone on the team, and I look forward to our continued success. As an open-source project, we continue to grow our team, and take with us the experience in collaboration that Microsoft Research fostered. We invite you to join us on this journey to bring history to life.    Roland Saekow, ChronoZoom Community Lead, University of California, Berkeley

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Honored to be invited to the UN General Assembly Head of State Reception and to meet President Obama and the First Lady

On Monday, September 24, I got the thrill of a lifetime. I was a guest of the White House at the UN Head of State Reception, where I had the great honor of meeting President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. I was also excited about the exceptional opportunity to discuss efforts against human trafficking—and my passion to grow the number of women in the field of computing—with interested heads of state from 150 countries and leaders of the top advocacy organizations fighting human trafficking in the United States today. The invitation was the result of my participation in efforts to use technology to combat the modern-day scourge of sex trafficking.

President Barack Obama, accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama, announced his administration’s latest efforts to combat human trafficking President Barack Obama, accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama, announced his administration’s latest efforts to combat human trafficking

In previous blog posts, I’ve talked about how danah boyd of Microsoft Research New England, the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit, and I are passionate about the possibilities of employing technology to disrupt this heinous crime. It was exciting to see the enthusiastic support for the work we’re doing, which was evident the following day, when the president announced his administration’s latest efforts to combat human trafficking in the United States and abroad.

I was particularly moved by his saying that human trafficking “…ought to concern every person, because it’s a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at the social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name—modern slavery.”

As part of his announcement, the president outlined several initiatives that his administration will undertake in the fight against human trafficking. These actions include providing new tools and training to help law enforcement and other government agencies identify and assist the victims of human trafficking, and increased social services and legal assistance for these victims. The announcement also directed the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to develop the first-ever federal strategic action plan to strengthen services for trafficking victims.

For my part, I’ve been active in the efforts of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Council on Women and Girls, serving on two committees and leading a third. As a group, we’ve brought together victims’ advocates, law enforcement leaders, technology companies, and researchers to brainstorm on three key issues: (1) how to share information more effectively with law enforcement; (2) how to harness the power of the Internet to reach victims; and (3) how to best provide victims of child sex trafficking with the help they need.

I’m cautiously optimistic that we will make real progress in this area over the next few years. We know that it will take a partnership of experts, a foundation of policies, and effective technology to be successful.

We’re seeing the right partnerships forming under the leadership of the White House. We are working to engage a multi-discipline group of experts to conduct the rigorous research needed to better understand the problem. In addition, with the president’s announcement and the work being done by attorneys general across the United States, policies are being put in place to help support survivors and more effectively prosecute perpetrators. Moreover, we’re making progress in the quest to understand technology’s role in trafficking and to determine what policies should be enacted to ensure that our children are safe online. Together, these developments should enable us to create technologies to deter and, better yet, help prevent human trafficking.

As you know, I believe taking on social issues like human trafficking will inspire this next generation of girls to want to be computer scientists and help us solve these challenges through technology. I am already seeing young women’s eyes light up as I discuss this work in middle schools and summer programs for girls. Although we are just in the early stages of our work, I’m very excited about the research we are supporting and the projects I am working on in this area. In the coming months, I’ll be back to provide more details about our projects and to report on the progress we are making. In the meantime, you can see great work being done in human trafficking where I will share some of our work in Microsoft and Microsoft Research at the University Nebraska Lincoln Human Trafficking Conference.  I am very excited to be an active participant, speaker and moderator at this fabulous event.

Can I just say how lucky I feel that I have the best job in the world, where I can make impact and hopefully change the world for the better!

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director for Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections

 

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Growing Women in Computing with amazing Interns

As many of you know by now, I am super passionate about how we are going to double the number of women and ethnic minorities in computer science and informatics across the world. As part of my efforts to take on this achievable but daunting task, I have hired two outstanding women (who are pursuing their PhDs) as my interns this summer: Katie Doran and Meagan Rothschild. This month, Katie will tell you about her research and her experience working with me to grow more women and ethnic minorities in computing. You will hear from Meagan in December when we get closer to completing her research findings.

Before we hear from Katie, let me tell you a little about her. Microsoft Research intern, Katie DoranKatie Doran is pursuing a PhD in computer science at North Carolina State University with an emphasis on educational technologies and serious gaming. She is particularly interested in exploring how emerging games technologies, such as augmented reality and ubiquitous features, can facilitate novel interactions among players and increase learning potential. Katie is heavily involved in the Broadening Participation in Computing Community and leads multiple science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) outreach programs. I had the opportunity to meet Katie during the poster session at the CRA-W Grad Cohort event that Microsoft Research sponsors. I am excited to have her working with me on evaluating ChronoZoom as an educational tool. ChronoZoom is a web-based, interactive visualization of Big History, the broadest possible view of the past stretching from 13.7 billion years ago to today. Our vision is to enable innovative ways of teaching Big History and its various components, and empowering interdisciplinary studies. I’d like to hand this blog over to Katie now to tell you about the exciting projects she’s been working on. —Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director for Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections

In addition to my work on ChronoZoom, which has included hands-on sessions with more than 60 students, I have taken the lead on multiple outreach initiatives. Twice, I was able to bring student groups to the Microsoft Redmond campus for hands-on demos of TouchDevelop and IllumiShare, panels with successful women from across Microsoft, and tours of the Microsoft Home. The first group was all middle-school girls from Girls Gather for Computer Science, a summer camp focusing on hands-on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) activities. Our second group was from the University of Washington’s Math Academy, a program for high-school students from underrepresented groups who are on track to complete the highest level math requirements at their schools before graduation. Both groups of students were phenomenal and left campus with an entirely different perspective on what it would be like to have a career as a computer scientist—especially here at Microsoft. Watching the students’ reactions—as they heard about the breadth of work being done by Microsoft employees here in Building 99, across campus, and around the world—was very encouraging. At the end of both sessions, I went home knowing that each of those students had been exposed to opportunities they never even knew existed. My third outreach event of the summer was attending STARS Celebration 2012 in Hampton, Virginia. STARS, which stands for Students and Technology in Academia, Research, and Service, is an National Science Foundation-funded Broadening Participation in Computing project that focuses on professional development for university students in STEM fields as well as outreach with elementary and high-school students to build and reinforce interest in studying STEM topics. This event was particularly fun for me, because I have been an active member of STARS since 2008. At STARS Celebration, I was able to present on my own work—STEM outreach in Haiti, evaluating outreach, and outreach with game design and development—and the significant work being done by Microsoft Research to promote an interest in computer science! I presented two sessions on Microsoft tools for outreach use and both were standing room only.

Everyone in attendance was impressed with the number of free tools that Microsoft makes available for outreach activities, such as TouchDevelop, Kodu, Pex for fun, and Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer. As a NASA Fellow, the highlight for me was getting to show off the incredibly adorable Mars Rover additions to Kodu. Based on the response I received, I expect large numbers of game designers and astronauts in about 10 years! My research and outreach work with Microsoft Research this summer has led me to the biggest annual event for women in computing—the Grace Hopper Celebration 2012 (GHC) in Baltimore, Maryland. I’ve spent the past few weeks working with Rane to organize Microsoft’s presence at GHC. It’s been a big undertaking because Microsoft has an incredible 165 people registered, including six executives and six senior women! It is inspiring to see Microsoft employees taking such an interest in growing the number of women in computer science. With the energy I put towards this effort, it is thrilling to know that the girls I help inspire can apply to a company that is eager to hire, retain, and support exceptional women after they complete their degrees. In addition to being overwhelmed with the amazing presence that Microsoft has here, I’ve been busy supporting Anita’s Quilt, a blog from the Anita Borg Institute that allows remarkable women in technical fields to motivate and empower one another through their stories. I’ve been handing out stickers and sharing the story of Anita’s Quilt since I arrived on Tuesday, but if we haven’t met yet, keep your eyes open for me—I’d love to give you a sticker and fill you in. I could also tell you about the wonderful young women I look forward to meeting at the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Award Winners Reception tomorrow. They are an impressive group of brilliant, enthusiastic high-school girls who are going to go on to be the next leaders in computer science. You can find me, my mentor Rane, and a group of other talented, passionate Microsoft women volunteering at the Microsoft booth. Stop by booth #1315 to say hello, get information on internship and career opportunities, and to develop your own Windows Phone application! If you don’t have time to say hello, or you didn’t make it to GHC—you can find out about many of our initiatives at our Women in Computing website. I hope you’re all having as fantastic and inspiring an experience here at Grace Hopper as I am! —Katie Doran, Intern, Microsoft

Learn more at:

http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/news/features/hopper2012-100512.aspx

http://research.microsoft.com/en-US/events/women-in-computing2012/default.aspx

 

Year in review

So another fiscal year ends at Microsoft and instead of having a New Year’s Resolution on January 1st, I like to create my Microsoft New Year’s Resolution on July 1st! This year I have committed to my family, friends and close colleagues:

  • To travel less and be around more
  • Continue to be committed to changing the world but take it on in manageable pieces
  • No working on weekends
  • Disconnect when on vacation and  to take more vacations
  • Become a better paddle boarder and kayaker
  • Blog more regularly
  • Volunteer at a manageable level
  • Have more ladies weekends
  • Better tell the Microsoft Research story around the world and what we are doing and how folks can better work with us

In addition, I have gotten a haircut and it’s a new Rane, what do you think?

 

I think you can see a theme here. So after ten years at Microsoft and closing my first year with Microsoft Research, I continue to be drinking the cool aid as my husband says. As I tell all my family and friends, I feel like I have the best job in the company and who can go to bed every night knowing you are doing something that will make impact in the world and possibly change lives. It is so exciting to be working for an organization that is finding the cure for HIV through anti-spam algorithms, using the power of computer science to map the sugarcane gnome and using technology how can we better enable citizen science when it comes to endangered species and the environment. So many cool discoveries and innovations. It is almost unbelievable to me that I get to work with the top academic experts around the world to build a tool that bridges the gap between sciences and humanities and helps students all over the world to understand the history of everything better. Check out http://chronozoomproject.org if you haven’t yet. In addition, having the ability to create the strategy and how we as an organization outreach and grow the pipeline of women innovators in technology there is never a dull day. You can see this new strategy and what we are doing at http://research.microsoft.com/diversity. As part of this work, I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with famous social scientist and Microsoft researcher Dr. danah boyd and six top researchers on how we look at technology and the human trafficking of minors in the United States, see my blog post below and this video: http://research.microsoft.com/apps/video/?id=169416.

This year I have had the opportunity to meet and work with the most amazing people with the most amazing backgrounds and stories. Just a couple of ladies who are changing the world, if you don’t know I must tell you about:

  • Lucy Sanders, CEO of the National Center for Women in Technology is one of the busiest women I have ever met. She has had the most amazing career and is doing everything possible to grow more women in technology and she knows everyone!   She is a Bell Labs Fellow with 5 patents, has been inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame and recently was named by the U.S. secretary of Commerce to serve on the department’s Innovation Advisory Board. Her energy and passion is contagious.
  • Telle Whitney, CEO of the Anita Borg Institute and was the co-founder of the amazing Grace Hoppers Conference (the largest conference for women in computing in the world).   She has moved Anita Borg Institute from a small NGO of a few employees on grant funds to more than 25 employees being self-sufficient and thriving!  She serves on the advisory boards of Caltech’s Information Science and Technology, California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, and Illuminate Ventures. She has won so many awards similar to Lucy and I have to highlight that she was named in 2011 to the Fast Company Most Influential Women in Technology List. She constantly keeps me on my toes!
  • Just recently I have had the pleasure to get to know Catherine Didion. She is a Senior Program Officer at the National Academy of Engineering, where she is responsible for      Diversity of the Engineering Workforce program.  She is the driving force behind the efforts to enhance the diversity of the engineering workforce at all levels including the diversity of those being prepared to enter the future workforce. In March of 2007, she became the Director of the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine. Just like the ladies above her she has won so many awards and sits on so many committees and is constantly growing my knowledge and capabilities.

I wish I had the time and space to list the hundreds of amazing men and women in NGOs, academia and government I have worked with this year and will continue to work with in collaboration in 2012-2013. I truly hope we can move the dial this year in exciting more girls into the field of computing. If you were not aware, there are only 1800 women graduating with a BS in Computer Science in the United States every year with a total of approximately 10,000 total.  While today there are 200,000 more degrees being handed out to women than men in US colleges, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4654635.

Why is this such a big problem, some people ask me?  Let’s think about it for a second, technology influences all aspects of our daily lives and every discipline under the sun.  If it is healthcare, environment, finance, education, manufacturing, retail, volunteering in the community, and the list goes on there is some type of technology component.  There have been thousands of books written on the differences of men and women.  How we manage differently, think differently, are wired differently, this list too goes on and on.  If you are a fan or not we have to admit a lot of what is stated in “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” is true.  So given that, how can we truly be innovating if there are not enough women helping build the future innovations and technologies that will make our lives better, more efficient and more effective.  If there are not women in teams to ask different types of questions and look at making the solutions in different ways and understanding the needs of their audience that they belong to?   There is so much we can go and I hope to do with the best minds around the world to make a dent in this area.

Jumping subjects, what has been much amusement for me this Summer is my two fantastic PHD interns, Katie and Meagan.  I had the opportunity to meet Katie at the CRA-W Grad Cohort where she gave a fabulous poster session that excited me to her potential.  Katie hails from University of North Carolina at Charlotte and is very passionate about computing and education, what is dear to my heart!  She joined our ChronoZoom team to investigate if data visualization of BIG DATA can be a better teaching and learning experience for students and help them to better conceptualize data and information and learn 21st century skills better.  She will also partner with me and Microsoft researcher Steven Drucker to examine more longitudinal use of a visualization within a classroom setting. While Meagan come from University of Wisconsin-Madison will be here for a 6 month internship, working with me and in partnership with  Alex Games from IEB.  Meagan will be focusing on studies of youth learning with 2 Way-TV, and of studies of student engagement  in STEM with Dakota.  In both cases, she will also do a deep investigation on Girls and Learning and helping us better reach Girls in STEM through XBOX, Kinect and Kodu. These ladies are brilliant, fabulous and will definitely change the world!

Katie has taken the bull by the horn and has helped me (really took the lead) in supporting two great programs that will enable young women and minorities to pursue careers in computing.  Katie organized two days at Microsoft for these young computer scientists to experience what it is like to pursue a career in technology and what is possible with computer science.  The students met with interns, heard from executives and visited the Microsoft Home of the Future.  The first group was sponsored by Pacific University, G2CS: Girls Gather for Computer Science (http://www.g2cs.org/) excite young girls across the state of Oregon to computing.  The young women learn about computer science careers, learn to code and do several different types of computing activities.  The second group came from University Washington where they have a great program called the Math Academy (www.uwmathacademy.org) where they help high school students get the math skills necessary to be able to pursue a degree in computer science and have the skills necessary to be able to apply to universities.

So as you can see it has been a fabulous year and I look forward to sharing with you the amazing people, stories and activities to come in 2012-2013.  Stay tuned and please share any stories, articles, publications and information you think I would be interested in to make a difference in education and growing young women in computing!

Summit Promotes Women in Computing

Summit Promotes Women in Computing  In May I had the opportunity to attend  the NCWIT (National Center for Women & Information Technology) 2012 Summit on Women and IT, and what an amazing three days it was! The annual NCWIT Summit is a celebration of girls and women in technology, but above all, it’s an opportunity for leaders from education, industry, and government to explore avenues for recruiting and retaining women in IT roles.

For me, this year’s summit has not only been a tremendous resource for new ideas, it also provided a prime opportunity to promote Microsoft’s commitment to increasing women’s presence in computing. Microsoft has been a NCWIT sponsor since 2004, and an investment partner since 2006. In 2009, an additional Microsoft gift brought the company’s funding for NCWIT to US$2 million since 2005, an indication of our dedication to strengthening the U.S. IT workforce with an expanded, diverse pool of talent.

As further evidence of the company’s commitment, I am excited to report that we released our new Women in Computing website in conjunction with the summit. This site not only offers information about free tools, programs, and opportunities to support women in computing, it also summarizes our educational initiatives—which extend from grade school to graduate studies to faculty fellowships—and includes inspirational stories of women who are helping to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems through careers in computer science and technology.

The summit also gave me a chance to highlight our involvement in the launch of NCWIT’s Sit With Me campaign. This launch took place on March 9, International Women’s Day, and Microsoft marked the occasion by holding 50 events that spanned the globe, all celebrating women in computing. In addition, Microsoft Research labs around the world have begun to launch Sit With Me campaigns to grow the next generation of female researchers and inventors. Microsoft is also an active participant in the NCWIT Pacesetters program, in which senior leaders from corporations and universities commit to increasing their numbers of technical women.

One of the summit’s high points for me was assisting Microsoft Staffing Director Sean Kelly in presenting the first-ever NCWIT Pioneer Award, given to women who have forged new trails for women in computing. The recipients were Patricia Palumbo and Lucy Simon Rakov, two trailblazing programmers who helped the United States explore outer space and paved the way for women in computing. Read about their amazing careers.

The summit also recognized the Chicago-area recipients of the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing, which honors female high-school students for computing-related achievements and interests. Microsoft Research is pleased to be a sponsor of this important program, and I was excited to meet two inspirational young women who want to change the world in their pursuit of a career in computing. They will both join us at Microsoft as interns this summer.

In addition, I was thrilled to join with Christine Alvarado (of Harvey Mudd College), Maureen Biggers (of Indiana University-Bloomington), and Margaret Burnett (of Oregon State University) to honor the 2012 recipients of the Microsoft Research funded Academic Alliance (AA) Seed Fund awards. This program provides AA members with funds to conceptualize and implement promising practices for recruiting and retaining women in computing at the higher education level. And since Microsoft is an active member of the Academic Alliance, my colleagues and I were busy participants in Alliance meetings at the summit.

One might think I’m exhausted after all these activities, but the summit has been so uplifting that I find myself energized. This has been truly an inspirational event. Now I just have to get some of that great Chicago pizza before I head back to the Northwest.

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director for Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections

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Inspiring Students in our Backyard

Students from Kent Technology Academies enjoy a day of computing innovations at Microsoft Research.

As Microsoft’s “point person” for increasing women’s participation in computing, I am passionate about attracting talented young women to careers in computer science. Perhaps you’ve seen these statistics, which underscore the need:

  • The percentage of computer science graduates who are women has declined from 37 percent in 1985 to 18 percent in 2009. (Source: http://www.ncwit.org/scorecard)
  • High school girls comprise 56 percent of Advanced Placement (AP) test-takers across all subjects, but only 19 percent of AP computer science test-takers. (Source: The College Board, AP National Summaries, 1999–2009)
  • By 2018, there will be nearly 1.4 million computing jobs in the United States, but at the current graduation rates, only 29 percent of those jobs could be filled by American graduates. (Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment by detailed occupation, 2008 and projected 2018.)

We know that young women want meaningful careers—vocations that make a social and economic impact—and I believe they understand how deeply technology influences our modern lives. However, many may not recognize how careers in computer science can advance societal improvements. We think it is important that they realize that computer scientists support and develop tools, services, and devices that can change the world for the better—and also that they understand the necessity of taking advanced science and math courses to prepare them to help change the world as a computer scientist.  Fortunately, there are organizations, companies, and universities throughout the United States implementing programs to interest the next generation in computing careers. My Microsoft colleagues and I have had the opportunity to participate in some of the great programs here in the Puget Sound (Washington) region. Here’s a quick overview of three of these programs that expose young women to the potential of careers in computing. A Word to the WiSE The 2012 WiSE (Women in Science and Engineering) Conference, for which Microsoft Research was both a participant and a sponsor, took place on February 25 at the University of Washington. Cathyrne Jordan, the director of WiSE at the University of Washington, and her team brought together women from industry, universities, community colleges, and high schools throughout the Pacific Northwest for a day of exploration, discovery, and empowerment. The event was the twenty-first annual WiSE conference, and like its 20 predecessors, it encouraged female students to continue their studies in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects and worked to build the attendees’ self-confidence, ease their transition from school to work, and provide greater awareness of career opportunities in engineering and science. Inspirational keynote presentations were followed by industry-related workshops, a resource fair, soft-skill training sessions, and preparation for graduate school. Professional engineers and scientists facilitated workshops where students could learn about opportunities in specific fields and receive valuable mentoring. I had the opportunity to speak with all the high school students attending WiSE who are part of the Making Connections Program and answer their questions about computer science’s role in solving world problems. It was exciting to see how the event changed the young women’s perceptions of STEM subjects and to witness their enthusiasm about preparing for computer science studies in college.

Getting Witty at NCWIT Competitions The National Center for Women & Information Technology, better known as NCWIT, is a nonprofit coalition that works to increase diversity in IT and computing. An important component of this effort is the national and regional affiliate competitions for the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing. These competitions honor young women at the high school level for their computing-related achievements and interests. Awardees are selected for their computing and IT aptitude, leadership ability, academic history, and plans for post-secondary education. This year, NCWIT will host 31 award events, recognizing 624 young women across the country, and Microsoft Research is excited to sponsor all the affiliate regional events.

Last Saturday, several of my colleagues participated in the Washington regional event, which honored 20 Aspiration Award winners in Washington State. We were pleased to partner with Ed Lazowska of the University of Washington in support of girls’ interest in computer science and to have Microsoft’s own Cheryl Platz discuss the role of computing in the Puget Sound region. In addition, Microsoft researchers joined representatives from Google and HTC in a panel discussion of careers in computing. The young women viewed demos and heard from university computer science students about the work they do in school. The enthusiasm generated is apparent in these quotes from young women who attended the event:

  • “Because of this award, I am less shy with my passion. Now I enjoy showing off my computing talents and sharing them with others.”
  • “This event made me feel amazing. It made me want to do even more with computing.”
  • “This award has inspired me to further my education in computer science.”

I am pleased to have the opportunity to be the keynote speaker for the Northwest Regional Women in Computing Celebration 2012 on April 14 in Portland, Oregon. Watch for a future blog I will write about this experience after the event. Kent Get Enough of this Program Lastly, I want to update you on a program I blogged about a few months ago: our partnership with the Kent Technology Academies, where we are working to generate enthusiasm among Kent students—both female and male—for careers in STEM. We initiated the partnership the Friday before the beginning of Computer Science Education Week in December 2011 with a day-long event that was designed to reach every seventh- through twelfth-grader at Kent’s two tech academy campuses. Our primary goal was to help students understand that computer science can help solve many of the most difficult problems in the world and to excite them about the interesting career opportunities in STEM. On March 22, 2012, we hosted all the seventh- and ninth-grade students at Microsoft Research headquarters to show them computer science in action and encourage them to attend more advanced science and math courses next year. The students heard from a panel of Microsoft Research leaders, including Peter Lee, Tony Hey, and Lili Cheng. Then they had the opportunity to engage in hands-on research demonstrations and to join the Epiphyte Research Project led by Donald Brinkman.

Kent students learn about the potential of natural user interfaces.

Here are a few of the comments from the Kent students:

  • “Today was fabulous. It blew my mind what you can do in computer science!”
  • “I thought programming was boring, but to make cool things like you showed, I can’t wait to learn more!”
  • “I am so going to take more advanced math and science classes in high school now!”
    And my favorite:
  • “I want to be a computer scientist now!”

These three programs help inspire the next generation to change the world through computer science. Seeing participants’ enthusiasm, their increased confidence, and their passion to learn more, I know we’re headed in the right direction. I’m confident that by working with universities and organizations like those described above, we will make notable progress. In the coming years, I look forward to seeing the number of female computer science graduates surpass those of 1985. Visit this blog again in late April to read about more programs and organizations working with Microsoft Research to inspire women to pursue careers in computing.

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Education and Scholarly Communication Principal Research Director, Microsoft Research Connections

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On the Road with ChronoZoom

 

ChronoZoom travels the world

It’s been a busy month for the ChronoZoom team, as we’ve zoomed (literally) around the world promoting this amazing tool. For those of you who are coming in late, here’s a little background: ChronoZoom is an open-source community project dedicated to visualizing the history of everything. As such, it seeks to bridge the gap between the humanities and sciences and to enable a nearly inexhaustible repository of readily understandable and easily navigable information. By using Big History as the storyline, we hope to achieve a unified, interdisciplinary understanding of the history of the cosmos, Earth, life, and humanity, enabling users to understand the history of everything. Ambitious? Sure. But we’re committed to following the maxim of visionary urban planner Daniel Burnham, who said, “Make no little plans.”

 

Now, let me get back to the road story. Last month, I traveled to South Korea to launch ChronoZoom in Asia at the Asian Association of World Historians Conference. In Korea, I had the opportunity to represent the ChronoZoom team during a panel discussion about the “Evolution of Big History,” which was chaired by the father of Big History, David Christian of Macquarie University (check out his TED talk on Big History). Other participants included Big History leaders Craig Benjamin of Grand Valley State University, Cynthia Brown of Dominican University, Yue Sun of Capital Normal University, and Seohyung Kim of Ewha Womans University. This session served as a springboard for engaging the community of world historians in building out Asian histories in ChronoZoom. While in Korea, I was also excited to learn about pilot high school courses on Big History, some of which are using ChronoZoom in the classroom already!

Last week, my ChronoZoom teammate, Michael Zyskowski, headed to Mexico to launch ChronoZoom in Latin America at the 2012 Microsoft Research Latin American Faculty Summit. One of the highlights of the summit was the unveiling of a ChronoZoom timeline on Mayan history, covering the rise and fall of Mayan civilization and the ongoing history of ethnic Mayan identity. The content for this timeline was created by Felipe Gaytan and Camina Murillo from La Salle University in Mexico, and the results will, we are sure, encourage researchers to build additional tours and timelines of relevance to Latin America.

As faithful readers of this blog know, ChronoZoom has been a joint effort of the University of California at Berkeley, which provided content and overall vision; Moscow State University, which authored 80 percent of the software; the Outercurve Foundation, which contributed intellectual property governance; and Microsoft Research Connections, which delivered technical expertise and collaboration oversight. And this month, we are excited to be adding the University of Washington iSchool, which will focus on content strategy and the data management taxonomy.

As our trips to Asia and Latin America demonstrate, we are actively seeking additional participants for this community project. Professor Walter Alvarez and Roland Saekow of the University of California at Berkeley have been touring various universities with me, seeking partners for ChronoZoom’s ambitious goals. In particular, we are looking for help from computer science departments and from scholars in the humanities and the sciences. Here, in a nutshell, is what we’re seeking:

From computer science researchers and students: we need you to help us build the features and capabilities required for ChronoZoom to function optimally. In particular, we are seeking a computer science department to lead the technical side of the project and organize the community in collaboration with Microsoft Research. We are also looking for computer science departments to help us solve several difficult technical challenges involving content visualization, data management, and machine learning.

From professors, researchers, and students in the humanities and sciences: we need subject matter experts who can work with us to make ChronoZoom the premier platform for chronicling the history of the humanities and the sciences, and for showing how these fields have cross-pollinated one another. We want your research, lectures, and content to be present in ChronoZoom, where this information will come to life and be shared with students, educators, and researchers around the world. We also seek your feedback and help in shaping the features and capabilities that will make ChronoZoom a great teaching and learning tool.

You can find more details about these challenges in the “Big Questions” section of our ChronoZoom page. And in the “Potential Future Features” section, you’ll see where we’d like to take ChronoZoom in the months and years ahead.

If you are interested in partnering with us, please contact ChronoZoomProject@microsoft.com.

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director for Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections

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Human Trafficking Update

According to Shared Hope International, at least 100,000 juveniles are the victims of child sex exploitation in the United States each year.  In December 2011, Dr. danah boyd and I were pleased to announce an RFP (request for proposal), funded by the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit and Microsoft Research, for projects that investigate the role of technology in the human trafficking of minors in the United States. In that announcement, we provided a framework for thinking about the intersections between technology and human trafficking. Today, June 13, 2012, I’m happy to announce that the recipients of these funds have been selected. After reviewing many promising proposals, we have allocated a total grant of US$185,000 among six proposals, each of which involves unique, imperative research. We are excited about the progress we expect to make in understanding the role of technology in human trafficking with the work of these amazing researchers. The recipients are:

  • Dr. Nicole Bryan, Dr. Ross Malaga, and Dr. Sasha Poucki of Montclair State University and Dr. Rachel Swaner of the Center for Court Innovation, for research on how networked technologies, including the Internet, mobile phones, and social media, are used by “johns” to procure children for sexual purposes.
  • Dr. Susan McIntyre of Calgary, Alberta; Dr. Dawne Clark of Mount Royal University; and Norm Lewis, research assistant at Mount Royal University, for research on the role of technology in the recruiting, buying, and selling of victims in the sex trafficking industry.
  • Professor Mary G. Leary of the Catholic University of America, for a comprehensive assessment of judicial opinions on child sex trafficking issued over the last 10 years.
  • Dr. Kimberly Mitchell of the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center, for research on technology’s role in facilitating child sex trafficking and understanding the benefits and obstacles for law enforcement.
  • Dr. Jennifer Musto of Rice University, for research on how law enforcement leverages the benefits—and overcomes the obstacles—of using technology in combating the trafficking of children for commercial sexual exploitation.
  • Dr. Anna W. Shavers, Dr. Dwayne Ball, Professor Matt Waite, Professor Sriyani Tidball, and Dr. David Keck of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, for research into identifying the clandestine language that is used in web advertising of child sex trafficking and conceptualizing intelligent software to identify such online advertisements.

Today, human trafficking stands the fastest growing criminal industry in the world; in fact, this form of modern-day slavery has the dubious distinction of ranking alongside the trade in illegal arms as the second-largest international criminal industry, trailing only drug dealing. The research funded by these grants is sorely needed. It is very encouraging to see the significant actions taken against this heinous crime in the past year. Government agencies, NGOs, advocacy organizations, and corporations are working to increase awareness, research, and action in this area. One area all these organizations highlight is the need for more data and rigorous research on the extent of the human-trafficking problem, which includes understanding technology’s role in human trafficking. Unfortunately, there is a paucity of verifiable data on exactly how technology is abetting the crime—or how technology might be used to combat it.

The Microsoft Digital Crime Unit and Microsoft Research hope to make a difference by funding research that will yield valuable data about the role that technology plays in child sex trafficking, with the ultimate goal of developing new disruptive approaches and innovations to address the problem. As a technology service provider, Microsoft has a stake in ensuring that its technologies are not contributing to crime, particularly crimes against children. We hope to use the findings and insights from these projects to drive advancements in the fight against trafficking.

As the lead for Microsoft Research Connections’ initiative on Growing Women in Computing, I strongly believe that support of research into technology’s role in societal issues will excite a new generation of women about the potential of careers in computer science. Today, only approximately 1,800 women graduate from computer science programs in the United States; we need to inspire more young women to pursue careers in the field and make breakthroughs in areas that are relevant to women. Their research will not only help us understand how to begin addressing the crime of human trafficking, but will also inspire more young women to pursue careers where they can make a positive impact in society. These women will help us solve societal problems and use technology in ways we can’t imagine.

I want to congratulate the recipients cited above, and I look forward to building a rigorous academic community of social scientists, economists, business researchers, legal researchers, psychologists, and computer scientist to help solve the scourge of human trafficking.  Also, this week at the Faculty Summit we were able to do a interview on our work with human trafficking view it here: http://research.microsoft.com/apps/video/?id=169416

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director for Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections

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Human Trafficking Update

In December 2011, Dr. danah boyd and I were pleased to announce an RFP (request for proposal), funded by the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit and Microsoft Research, for projects that investigate the role of technology in the human trafficking of minors in the United States. In that announcement, we provided a framework for thinking about the intersections between technology and human trafficking. Today, June 13, 2012, I’m happy to announce that the recipients of these funds have been selected. After reviewing many promising proposals, we have allocated a total grant of US$185,000 among six proposals, each of which involves unique, imperative research. We are excited about the progress we expect to make in understanding the role of technology in human trafficking with the work of these amazing researchers. The recipients are:

  • Dr. Nicole Bryan, Dr. Ross Malaga, and Dr. Sasha Poucki of Montclair State University and Dr. Rachel Swaner of the Center for Court Innovation, for research on how networked technologies, including the Internet, mobile phones, and social media, are used by “johns” to procure children for sexual purposes.
  • Dr. Susan McIntyre of Calgary, Alberta; Dr. Dawne Clark of Mount Royal University; and Norm Lewis, research assistant at Mount Royal University, for research on the role of technology in the recruiting, buying, and selling of victims in the sex trafficking industry.
  • Professor Mary G. Leary of the Catholic University of America, for a comprehensive assessment of judicial opinions on child sex trafficking issued over the last 10 years.
  • Dr. Kimberly Mitchell of the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center, for research on technology’s role in facilitating child sex trafficking and understanding the benefits and obstacles for law enforcement.
  • Dr. Jennifer Musto of Rice University, for research on how law enforcement leverages the benefits—and overcomes the obstacles—of using technology in combating the trafficking of children for commercial sexual exploitation.
  • Dr. Anna W. Shavers, Dr. Dwayne Ball, Professor Matt Waite, Professor Sriyani Tidball, and Dr. David Keck of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, for research into identifying the clandestine language that is used in web advertising of child sex trafficking and conceptualizing intelligent software to identify such online advertisements.

Today, human trafficking stands the fastest growing criminal industry in the world; in fact, this form of modern-day slavery has the dubious distinction of ranking alongside the trade in illegal arms as the second-largest international criminal industry, trailing only drug dealing. The research funded by these grants is sorely needed. It is very encouraging to see the significant actions taken against this heinous crime in the past year. Government agencies, NGOs, advocacy organizations, and corporations are working to increase awareness, research, and action in this area. One area all these organizations highlight is the need for more data and rigorous research on the extent of the human-trafficking problem, which includes understanding technology’s role in human trafficking. Unfortunately, there is a paucity of verifiable data on exactly how technology is abetting the crime—or how technology might be used to combat it.

The Microsoft Digital Crime Unit and Microsoft Research hope to make a difference by funding research that will yield valuable data about the role that technology plays in child sex trafficking, with the ultimate goal of developing new disruptive approaches and innovations to address the problem. As a technology service provider, Microsoft has a stake in ensuring that its technologies are not contributing to crime, particularly crimes against children. We hope to use the findings and insights from these projects to drive advancements in the fight against trafficking.

As the lead for Microsoft Research Connections’ initiative on Growing Women in Computing, I strongly believe that support of research into technology’s role in societal issues will excite a new generation of women about the potential of careers in computer science. Today, only approximately 1,800 women graduate from computer science programs in the United States; we need to inspire more young women to pursue careers in the field and make breakthroughs in areas that are relevant to women. Their research will not only help us understand how to begin addressing the crime of human trafficking, but will also inspire more young women to pursue careers where they can make a positive impact in society. These women will help us solve societal problems and use technology in ways we can’t imagine.

I want to congratulate the recipients cited above, and I look forward to building a rigorous academic community of social scientists, economists, business researchers, legal researchers, psychologists, and computer scientist to help solve the scourge of human trafficking.  Also, this week at the Faculty Summit we were able to do a interview on our work with human trafficking view it here: http://research.microsoft.com/apps/video/?id=169416 

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director for Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections

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RFP using technology to combat human trafficking of minors in the USA

Human trafficking of minors—including the illegal trade of children and teens for commercial sexual exploitation—is a crime so vile that it makes most people shudder. But unfortunately, not everyone recoils: pedophiles and procurers have made the commercial sexual exploitation of children an international business, and there is little doubt that technology is increasingly playing a role in their criminal practices. Which is why today I am pleased to announce that Microsoft Research Connections is partnering with danah boyd, one of the top social media researchers from the Microsoft New England Research and Development Lab, and the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to investigate the implications of technology in this heinous crime.

According to Shared Hope International, at least 100,000 juveniles are the victims of child sex exploitation in the United States each year. According to Shared Hope International, at least 100,000 juveniles are the victims of child sex exploitation in the United States each year.

Technology is a tool, and like any tool, it can be put to good or evil purposes. Currently, there is a paucity of information regarding technology’s role in human trafficking. We don’t know if there are more human trafficking victims as a result of technology, nor do we know if law enforcement can identify perpetrators more readily from the digital traces that they leave. One thing that we do know is that technology makes many aspects of human trafficking more visible and more traceable, for better and for worse. Yet focusing on whether technology is good or bad misses the point; it is here to stay, and it is imperative that we understand its part in human trafficking. More importantly, we need to develop innovative ways of using technology to address the horrors of this crime.

Over the last several months, I have spent significant time talking with organizations, victims, and researchers who are working on this problem. It has become a passion for me, in part because at age 14 I ran away from home. I was put in a group home, then into foster care, and finally emancipated. Back then, I was fortunate that no one targeted me or trapped me into the human trade; living on the street and working in the human trade never crossed my mind. And luckily, I found teachers who helped me understand my potential and the opportunities available to me. I now spend a lot of time talking with at risk youth and trying to help them understand their potential and they can do anything they can imagine.   Now, in partnership with the anti-trafficking community, I want to do all I can to develop innovative ways of using technology to combat human trafficking and help minors in the United States understand there are other options.

To do so, we must untangle technology’s role in different aspects of the human trafficking ecosystem. This is our hope with this RFP, and we look forward to hearing your responses.  Please forward this to every researcher you know who may be interested in responding, together we can make a difference!

Rane Johnson, Director of Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections

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Portland becomes the City of Hoppers, Home of the Largest Women in Computing Conference

From November 9 to 12, 2011, Portland, Oregon, the City of Roses, becomes the City of Hoppers, as technology-minded women from the across the United States flock to the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) of Women in Computing, an annual conference that brings the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront. Named for the legendary computer scientist, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, past GHCs have drawn 1,500 or more participants and dozens of corporate sponsors. This year, a record number of attendees (more than 2,000) are expected.

As in the past, leading researchers will present their current work, and special sessions will focus on the role of women in computer science, information technology, research, and engineering—as well as trends in these fields. And as always, a large contingent of corporate recruiters will be on hand—including many from Microsoft—looking to snag the top talent that GHC attracts and to help researchers and technical professionals expand their computer science knowledge and networks.

It’s exciting to see the lineup of amazing speakers from academic institutions, governments, nonprofits, and industry—including more than a dozen from Microsoft. All in all, more than 100 Microsoft researchers and technical employees will be attending, and the company is involved in more than 16 plenaries and sessions (see the line-up of Microsoft speakers). We also will be actively involved in the career night, the poster session, and the Sponsor Night Party. Fact is, Microsoft is a Platinum Sponsor of the Grace Hopper Celebration, for the fifth year in a row. We are proud to support the GHC and the contributions of the Anita Borg Institute and the Association for Computing Machinery, which are critical in attracting and retaining the women who will create the new technologies and drive new innovations for our global future. Be sure to come visit our booth (Exhibit Hall B 417), learn about natural user interfaces, and try out Kinect for Xbox at our Kinect Lounge in Hall C next to CyberCenter.

Now, let me plug my hometown for just a minute. As the United States’ top green city, Portland derives half its power from renewable sources; a quarter of the workforce commutes by bike, carpool, or public transportation; and it has more than 35 buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. Microsoft shares Portland’s focus on harnessing green technology and was recently named one of the Top Green IT organizations by ComputerWorld. In line with our efforts to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent per unit of revenue by 2012, Microsoft will be going collateral free at this year’s GHC, so we encourage all attendees to visit our Grace Hopper event site to find the information that would typically have been available as booth handouts.

That said, we still want every Hopper to stop by the Microsoft booth to pick out a photosynthetic “research partner” from our Project Epiphyte nursery. You and your air plant will collaboratively recycle carbon dioxide and oxygen as you symbiotically photosynthesize and respire, and you will join the Project Epiphyte community of dedicated plant-human partners. What’s more, you might even beautify your workspace. The epiphyte is more than just a highly-evolved organism that has transcended the limitations of its soil-bound ancestors. It symbolizes our desire to nurture a lasting relationship with GHC attendees and is a metaphor for the collaborative process of research, where knowledge is built on previous efforts and leads to entirely new fields of study. The first 1,500 attendees who visit our booth will receive an epiphyte and our renowned Microsoft Grace Hopper chocolate.

Stop by the Microsoft booth to participate in Project Epiphyte and learn what these items are all about

Stop by the Microsoft booth to participate in Project Epiphyte
and learn what these items are all about.

Also, visit our recruiting booth (Exhibit Hall A566). In addition to full-time positions, we offer a number of internships, scholarships, and fellowships. We think Microsoft is a great place for technological women (and men) to realize their ambitions, and we aren’t alone. Just last month, Great Place to Work, a global research, consulting, and training firm, named Microsoft the world’s best global company at which to work. As I have been telling all my friends for the last 10 years that I work at the best company in the world, now they don’t have to only take my word for it! So while you stop to smell the roses in the City of Roses, set aside some time to sniff out the possibilities of becoming a “Softie.”

“What If” is this year’s theme of the GHC, and it aligns nicely with our theme across Microsoft this year: “Be What’s Next.” Everyone at the conference can “Be What’s Next” by answering and investigating all the possible “What Ifs.” And if that didn’t make sense, I’ll be glad to rephrase it in person at the GHC. See you in Portland.

Future for Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

As I read the Washington Post article by Anna Holmes entitled, “Technically, science will be less lonely for women when girls are spurred early,” I felt my heart grow heavy when I encountered the following quote from Jennifer Skaggs, a University of Kentucky education researcher: “We are back to the beauty versus brains saga, in which girls entering middle school feel forced to ask themselves, ‘Do I want to be smart in math, or do I want to be seen as attractive?’” Skaggs, who authored the June 2011 paper, “Making the Blind to See: Balancing STEM Identity with Gender Identity,” is also quoted as saying, “If a female is seen as technically competent, she is assumed to be socially incompetent. And it works the other way around.”

Exciting the imagination and potential of girls to pursue technical fields

Exciting the imagination and potential of girls to pursue technical fields

I can’t believe that, in 2011, we still haven’t found a way to encourage girls to be confident in pursuing science, math, and technology courses in middle school and high school. I was in high school 20 years ago, and it never crossed my mind that I would not be popular, attractive, or boys would not like me because I was smart and took every advanced math and science course that was available. I was excited and pleased to let everyone in my high school know that I planned to be an engineer and attend one of the top 25 engineering schools in the country. Where have we, as a society, gone wrong when, 20 years later, we actually have fewer girls pursuing these fields?

I feel fortunate to be able to represent Microsoft as the company’s lead for Women in Research, Science, and Engineering. As I travel the world and meet with amazing researchers, I feel confident that we will solve this problem in the next decade. I would like to highlight a couple of projects that are taking on this challenge:

  • Computer Game Design: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Addressing Underrepresentation in Computing is a project being conducted by Jill Denner at ETR Associates and Michael Mateas, Noah Wardrip-Fruin, and Teale Fristoe (faculty members and students) from the University of California at Santa Cruz Computer Science Department’s computer game design lab. Research suggests that many children, especially girls, want to create games based on dynamic relationships, social interactions, and storytelling. But game creation tools for beginners have not offered support for game mechanics that would enable such games. The project team’s work is Kodu AI Lab, which is a set of extensions to Microsoft Kodu Game Lab that enables the design of just such games. Targeted at middle-school girls, the team hopes to foster girls’ interest in computer technologies.
  • The Future Science Leaders program is led by Katherine Blumdell, Oxford University, for early-career women researchers in physics, math, and computer-science fields. The objective is to explore challenges that scientists face today, techniques for scientists to succeed in research, and to educate today’s and tomorrow’s scientists. The speakers at the 2010 workshop included Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the Nobel Laureate William D. Phillips from Maryland, and Professor Alyssa Goodman from Harvard. The program was funded, in part, by a Royal Society prize that Blumdell was awarded last year (given in honor of Rosalind Franklin, who pioneered research in DNA) for the promotion of women in sciences. After attending the workshop, each program participant presents her research at two high schools (one in her university city and one in her home town, to avoid excessive travel costs). The benefit: high-school students get to attend a talk by a young scientist who can be a role model—particularly for young women—and spark student interest in the sciences. In addition, the young scientists gain useful experience in speaking about their research.

Encouraging women in the pursuit of computer science education is important to us at Microsoft Research. We offer support through the following two Microsoft Research Connections programs.

  • The Microsoft Research Graduate Women’s Scholarship Program is a one-year scholarship program for outstanding women graduate students and is designed to help increase the number of women pursuing a PhD in computer science, electrical engineering, or mathematics. This program supports women in the second year of their graduate studies. Women who are interested in this scholarship must apply during their first year of graduate studies. We began accepting applications on August 16. To be considered, all applications must be submitted by Thursday, October 6, 2011, 11:59 P.M. Pacific Time.
  • The Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship Program is a two-year fellowship for outstanding women and men in their third and fourth years of PhD graduate studies in the United States or Canada, with a research focus in computer science, mathematics, or electrical engineering. This program supports women and men in their third and fourth years of PhD graduate studies. We began accepting applications for 2012 on August 16. To be considered, all applications must be submitted by the office of the university department chair by Thursday, October 6, 2011, 11:59 P.M. Pacific Time.

In the coming months, we will highlight projects and programs that Microsoft Research Connections will support to cultivate the next generation of women professionals in research, science, and engineering around the world.

Rane Johnson, Principal Research Director, Microsoft Research Connections

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Opportunity for a Leader to help Transform Education in Redmond, Kirkland and Sammamish

I have the opportunity to serve as Board of Trustee for an amazing organization the Lake Washington Schools Foundation.  Our goal is to ensure every student in Redmond, Kirkland and Sammamish communities are succesful in their future work and life.  To do this we work closely with the Lake Washington School District and ensure we are meeting the financial needs and gaps in the budget to esnure we are the best school district in the state.  That all the necessary programs have the necessary funding to be succesful.  We have an opening for an interim executive director to help us take the organization to the next level and ensure we fund the critical programs needed for the 2011-2012 school year!  If you are interested read the details below and forward to anyone you believe would be a great fit.  Thanks so much!

Lake Washington Schools Foundation-Interim Executive Director Job Description

Schools foundations are established to be a catalyst for raising funds and mobilize community support within their school districts.  Foundations can reach into the community — to the parents, businesses, leaders, and the change agents — and inspire them to support with their dollars, skills and expertise the most pressing needs for the students.  And in doing so, they not only give the students a greater chance of achieving their optimal personal success, but they make their communities stronger and more vibrant and help grow the local economy and job base.

The Lake Washington Schools Foundation (the Foundation) seeks an experienced, Interim Executive Director to develop and grow the Foundation into a driving force that can better financially support the Lake Washington School District (LWSD). The Interim Executive Director is responsible for partnering with the Board of Trustees, District Administration and the community to focus on fundraising, donor cultivation, communications, and raising community awareness of the foundation.  The Foundation is searching for an exceptional professional who is committed to the mission and capable of building the long-term growth and sustainability of the organization.  The Interim Executive Director is eligible to apply for the Executive Director position.

About the Lake Washington Schools Foundation
The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Established in 2005 by community members, along with the District Superintendent, the Foundation is dedicated to bringing together parents, businesses and leaders of the Kirkland, Redmond and Sammamish communities to support academic excellence and success for all its students.

Mission: LWSF raises funds to support academic excellence and success for all students in the LWSD.
Vision: Each student in the LWSD will receive an education that ensures future success.  In doing so, we sustain economic vitality and enrich our community’s quality of life.
Funding Priorities:
Equal Access to Educational Opportunities: Provide resources to help all LWSD students receive equal access to critical academic experiences and enriching learning opportunities
Quality Teaching & Leadership: Fund professional development, training and mentoring opportunities that support LWSD teachers and leaders in offering an academically rigorous education to all students
Future Ready Skills: Provide financial support for developing skills and learning opportunities to prepare LWSD students for their future success in work and life.

About the Lake Washington School District
Lake Washington School District (LWSD) is located between Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains, to the east of Seattle. LWSD is the 5th largest public school district in the State. Its 24,000 students are served by 31 elementary schools, 12 junior highs and 8 high schools in the Kirkland, Redmond, and Sammamish communities.

Position Overview
The Interim Executive Director serves as the chief executive officer of the Foundation and is responsible for providing overall leadership to the organization. The Interim ED also acts as the Foundation’s primary spokesperson.  This position reports to the President(s) of the Executive Committee of the 9-20 member volunteer Board of Trustees and serves as an Ex-Officio member of the Board of Trustees and leads the Board committees.

The Interim Executive Director will focus on raising $200,000 in the next three to six months, grow the corporate and individual donor base, write grants and identify new grant opportunities, mobilize the Foundation Advisory Council, build and execute fundraising plans, raise community awareness, and execute the strategic development plan.  The Executive Director is expected to increase the Foundation’s fundraising to more than $1,000,000 annually and be a strategic partner in helping LWSD achieve its vision.

Specific Duties and Responsibilities of the Interim Executive Director
Resource Development (60%): administer internal organization plans to meet grant deliverables and fundraising goals, grant writing, grants management, donor cultivation, event strategy and planning.
Administration, Fiscal Management & Operations (15%): provide strategic leadership and drive the execution of LWSF mission and vision.
Community development and relationship building (25%): serve as the primary contact to funders, partners, LW school district and collaborating agencies. Raise awareness of the Foundation in Redmond, Kirkland and Sammamish communities.

Resource Development (60%):
• With the Resource Development Committee designs, implements and manages all fundraising activities including annual giving, endowment and capital campaigns, special projects, Trustee fundraising training and other solicitations.
• Manages all strategies and activities for donor cultivation, solicitation, and relations.
• Secures funding from individual donors, corporations and foundations.
• With the Grant Committee, works with current grantors and builds relationships and identifies new grant opportunities for 2011-2012 school year. Grant activities include managing current grants, relationships and reporting to current grantors, and developing, writing, and overseeing new grants in alignment with Funding Priorities.
• Works with Treasurer and Foundation staff on donor and gift record-keeping.
• Cultivates positive volunteer and donor relations through e-mail/phone correspondence, grant reports and program visits.

Administration, Fiscal Management & Operations (15%):
• Partners with the District Superintendent and administrators to support existing programs and identify new programs consistent with the mission of the Foundation.
• Works with the Board in the development of all strategic and operational planning, as well as goal-setting and monitoring activities.
• Partners with the Superintendent and District leadership, community groups and education supporters to implement, sustain and execute the Foundation mission.
• Provides written monthly ED report, attends monthly Trustee and Executive Committee meetings, and coordinates staff reports.

Marketing, Community Development and Relationship Building (25%):
• Maintains relationships with funders, key political and community partners, and primary collaborators — community based organizations, and partner schools — to build a base of potential supporters and donors.
• Serves as spokesperson, maintains and expands awareness/effective relationships with the District administration, teachers, parents, business community, media and other leaders.
• Expands marketing efforts and consistently represents the Foundation’s image and brand.
• Collaborates with Lake Washington PTSA, service organizations, municipalities, community groups and other organizations to support the efforts of the Foundation
• Works closely with the Marketing and Communications Committee to refine and execute communications and marketing plans and communicates vision and mission to stakeholders through the Foundation website, newsletters, and community based media channels.

Desired Experience & Qualifications:
• A minimum of three years professional, non-profit fundraising experience.
• Proven experience in designing, managing and executing fund development programs.
• Demonstrated leadership skills and experience with developing and maintaining productive working relationships with board members, donors, and groups such as parents, administrators and faculty.
• Excellent presentation skills; communicates effectively at senior levels of engagement and with external audiences (as well as press) including press and non-traditional media
• Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
• Local community connections are preferred; a willingness to immerse in the community is required.
• Strong technology skills including competence in Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/7 and Microsoft Office 2003-10; an operating knowledge of online QuickBooks and eTapestry is highly desirable.

Compensation
The Lake Washington Schools Foundation offers a competitive compensation package in accordance with education and experience.  The salary range is $68,000 – $80,000 depending upon education and experience.

Timeline
The application review process will begin during the week of May 23rd, 2011.  Candidates selected for an in-person interview will be notified on or before May 26th, 2011.  The position will remain open to new applications until it is filled.  The position will be in the duration of 3-9 months.  During this time the board will be evaluating the performance of the selected candidate and may extend an offer to the permanent Executive Director position or may decide to initiate a search for the permanent Executive Director.

To Apply: Please send a cover letter and resume to apply@lwsf.org

Lake Washington Schools Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, creed, age, national origin, marital status or disability, in accordance with applicable laws.

Lake Washington Schools Foundation: http://www.lwsf.org
Lake Washington School District: http://www.lwsd.org

Next generation creating solutions to solve the world’s greatest problems

This year, over 350,000 students from 183 countries registered for Microsoft’s Imagine Cup.  Today we are announcing the 124 teams that will represent their countries/regions at the Worldwide Finals in New York City, July 8-13. We have been inspired by the innovation, creativity, and passion demonstrated by so many talented students who have harnessed the power of technology to develop solutions that will help solve some of the world’s toughest problems. We’re also thrilled to see so many teams focusing on Windows Phone 7, Windows Azure, and Kinect.  To view all the finalist, please visit: http://www.imaginecup.com/worldwide-finals/2011-finalists-winners

There are so many amazing stories and solutions.  I would like to highlight one, since many of you know I was living in Munich the last three years and supporting the countries in Central Eastern Europe.  I would love to highlight the team from Zagreb, Croatia. Three out of 1,000 children suffer from cerebral palsy and there are not enough physical therapists trained to treat the patients. KiDnect allows a physical therapist to record a specific exercise for a patient, which the patient then repeats. Ideally the program will record and archive the exercises so the doctor can monitor whether the patient is performing them correctly and making progress. The exercises will be perceived as a game that should be completed daily. Connected through the internet, patients in rural areas will also have access to personalized physical therapy exercises. Check out their story:

I am so excited about this next generation of computer scientist, entrepreneurs and leaders who will help us solve some of the world’s greatest challenges!  To hear stories and learn more go to the Imagine Cup You tube channel.

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