By Carlotta Mohamed
The science of today is the technology of tomorrow, and Queens College students are building their skills and gaining valuable insight to help them succeed in college and in the tech world in a first-time collaboration with Google.
At Queens College located at 65-30 Kissena Blvd. in Flushing, 26 new freshman, including many young women, who were competitively selected to spend three works in Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute Extension program, presented their final presentations last week.
The 15-day course, which began July 23 and ended Aug. 15, taught students not only software and programming fundamentals as a community, but also how to interact with Google engineers and computer science executives from Bloomberg L.P. and Magistek, Inc., a software training and consulting firm.
“I am very pleased to join with Google to offer students this rich opportunity,” said Felix Matos Rodriguez, president of Queens College. “Of the current summer cohort, 37 percent are female and 33 percent are from minority groups underrepresented in the computer science profession. That is no accident. We are strongly committed to increasing the diversity of talent in the field.”
Students were taught relevant soft skills for academic and real world application. The curriculum, which provides students with the knowledge and tools to tackle CS problems, culminated in a team project–the development of an app– and presentation. Students were also given the opportunity to hear from computer science faculty researchers and meet recent QC grads working in computer science as well as current students doing tech-focused internships.
Bibi Hassan, one of the student participants and a recent graduate of Bayside High School, said the soft skills workshop was very helpful.
“They have definitely given me insight on what aspects of my work in coding I should improve on, such as working within a group and building a portfolio,” said Hassan. “The CSSI program made me realize that getting good grades is a good thing, but to get a great job after graduating, I will need to do a lot more. Now I can set out the steps I need to follow throughout the next four years, starting as a freshman, to put me ahead of the game.”
Eva Fernandez, assistant vice provost and director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Queens College, said research on student success in higher education shows that the immersive experience builds on confidence and enables students to become more self-directed and motivated learners by helping them see they are a part of a larger community at practice.
According to Hassan, she was nervous on her first day because she pictured the stereotypical Com Sci classroom environment much like her high school, where the majority of the class were male and practically professional coders.
“I was surprised to find there’s a good ratio between the sexes and over 50 percent of the class are beginners in coding.”
Hassan said she will “most definitely major in CS” but is unsure of her career plans at this early stage.
“This program should directly influence interest in computer science, as well as enrollment and retention in CS, particularly for students underrepresented in this major,” said Fernandez, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Linguistics & Communication Disorders at Queens College.
Fernandez said that when the student participants become alumni of the program, they join a nationwide community of students who have participated in a version of CSSI at their campuses or Google.
“Google will stay in touch with our CSSI Extension participants — and so will we through our Center for Career Engagement and Internships — to engage them in other opportunities related to careers in the tech sector: internships, scholarships, grants, career fairs, and other such resources,” said Fernandez.
The CSSI-Extension is inspired by Google’s longstanding CSSI program, which takes place at its offices throughout the United States. In contrast, the extension program is independently run by university faculty on their college campuses in partnership with Google, according to Queens College.
Incoming freshman Joceline Garcia, who graduated from a technical high school where the main focus was aviation, said she was not aware of all the other possible fields of study like computer science and its different aspects.
“Now that I have experienced it, it has allowed me to widen my horizons beyond aviation and think of a possible career as a software engineer,” said Garcia. “This program helped me solidify my decision to major in computer science.”
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha