Take 5 with Laurie Patterson
LAURIE PATTERSON was in charge as University of North Carolina Wilmington hosted the 2022 Carolinas Women in Computing Conference earlier this month. The conference drew undergraduate and graduate students as well as academicians and practitioners in a variety of computer-related fields.
The two-day event schedule was packed: panels, a poster session, workshops, and a dinner whose keynote speaker runs her own consulting firm.
While the conference is small, Patterson says it’s a welcome development to get back into the “face-to-face world.” It’s also important to hold an event that puts women’s technology capabilities in the spotlight.
“Traditionally, there have been few women in the field; if we went to a regular conference, it was male-heavy,” she says. “The CWIC conference is similar to large conferences, but we’ve got 150 people instead of thousands. And because there still aren’t many women in these majors, it gives the students an opportunity to meet other women in technology.”
The CWIC Conference also gives UNCW’s Department of Computer Science, of which Patterson is a member, an opportunity to demonstrate that it has greater gender equality than many of its counterparts across the country.
“Our . . . department is almost 50-50 men and women with regard to faculty numbers, so when students come into our program, they see more women,” she says. “The growth of UNCW and slow movement toward becoming a research institution have attracted more women to computer science; we’re slightly above the national average with regard to females in undergraduate enrollment for technology majors. ”
“The national average is about 18% and across three technology majors, UNCW is at about 21%,” she adds.
As coordinator of the university’s information technology program, Patterson sees those numbers translate into real opportunities at UNCW for female students and female faculty members. The conference offers them a chance to meet and talk with women in tech industries as well as at other universities in the two-state region.
Two years ago, just before the COVID-19 shutdown, the CWIC Conference took place at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Two years from now, the biennial event will be hosted by Anderson University, also in South Carolina.
Patterson has recently finished a two-year labor of love in a very different field. She has completed the second edition of “The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of America’s Great Lyricists,” a book originally written by her late husband, Philip Furia. The new edition, of which she is co-author, expands upon Furia’s 1990 work examining the legacy of songsmiths like Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Johnny Mercer.
Furia, an author and professor of English literature at UNCW until his death in 2019, was an acknowledged expert in the history of American popular song. Over the years, Patterson worked with him to create programs and concerts highlighting the writers and composers of everything from “White Christmas” to “Moon River.”
Patterson’s new edition of The Poets of Tin Pan Alley is due out later this year.
Take 5 with Laurie Patterson
TELL US ABOUT THE CONFERENCE:
“The Carolinas Women in Computing conference is designed primarily for technology-focused students and faculty in North and South Carolina. Traditionally, there have been few women in the field; if we went to a regular conference, it was male-heavy. This conference has been going on for a few years, and it tends to happen biennially. The last one, hosted by Winthrop University (in South Carolina), was shortly before everybody got shut down with COVID-19. University of North Carolina Wilmington is the host this year; the next conference will be at Anderson University in South Carolina.”
IS THE CONFERENCE GEARED PRIMARILY FOR STUDENTS?
“It is more for students, but there tends to be a fair amount of interaction among the professionals. It gives sponsoring businesses an opportunity for a bit of a career fair. And faculty members do attend the poster session and paper presentations so they can see what other colleges’ students are doing. That gives students a chance to interact with faculty members who might be interested in their research. The CWIC conference is similar to large conferences, but we’ve got 150 people instead of thousands. And because there still aren’t many women in these majors, it gives the students an opportunity to meet other women in technology.”
WHAT WILL ATTENDEES LEARN ABOUT PROGRAMS AT UNCW?
“For one thing, our computer science department is almost fifty-fifty men and women with regard to faculty numbers, so when students come into our program, they see more women. The growth of UNCW and slow movement toward becoming a research institution have attracted more women to computer science; we’re slightly above the national average with regard to females in undergraduate enrollment for technology majors. The national average is about 18%, and across three technology majors UNCW is at about 21%.”
WHAT IS UNCW DOING TO EXPAND ITS OFFERINGS IN COMPUTER-RELATED DISCIPLINES?
“We now have programs in cybersecurity and intelligent systems engineering – think: The Internet of Things. With these programs and the new undergraduate major in coastal engineering, we are bringing something unique to this region.”
To view more of photographer Terah Hoobler’s work, go to terahhoobler.com.
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