Jandelyn Plane recognized with award for broadening computing education

Jandelyn “Jan” Plane, associate professor of computer and data sciences, received a 2024 ACM SIGCSE Award. ACM SIGCSE is the Association of Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education, the international professional organization for computing education at all levels.

Plane received the Award for Broadening Participation in Computing Education at the SIGCSE Technical Symposium in Portland, Oregon, earlier this month. She was recognized for spearheading many efforts in developing programs at both K12 and university levels in improving student opportunity and diversity in computing; building capacity through educator and curriculum development across Africa and the Middle East; and her work at the local and state levels in the United States in promoting diversity in computing.

Plane also presented the Friday opening keynote address at the technical symposium.

In addition to her work at Ripon, Plane is an emeritus principal lecturer of computer science at the University of Maryland College Park. She says actively advocating for improving opportunities and diversity in her field is important. “Computer science is one of the fields that has the largest problem with diversity and inclusion,” she says. However, she adds, that while the best products are made by diverse teams, there currently is a lack in diversity of employees.

“There are so many unfilled jobs right now in the U.S. across the computing fields and it is estimated that the gap will be worsening, not getting better, over the next several years,” Plane says. “I like one statement that says, ‘Until we have women and all other populations that are currently underrepresented in computing fields at the same rate as we currently have white and Asian men, we can’t possibly fill all of the jobs that are being created.’ Improving that situation has been my goal over the past several decades.”

At the University of Maryland College Park, Plane founded and directed two centers that each had the goal of broadening participation in computing. Initiatives included outreach to K12 education to expand the pipeline; supporting current computing students to improve retention; and conducting research to determine what had the greatest impact and encourage others to reproduce the best programs.

She also has been involved in several multi-year international projects, including helping to design the national curriculum in computing education for Rwanda after its civil war and genocide; helping to design curriculum that now is offered across six universities in five countries in sub-Saharan Africa and assisting professors of computer science at Kabul University in Afghanistan to earn master’s degrees.

“I majored in computer science, philosophy and mathematics as an undergraduate – not really sure what I would want to do, but the creativity and problem-solving of computer science drew me in,” Plane says. “Now, after teaching it for more than three decades, I am so happy to be in this field because it is constantly changing and there are always new things to learn and new developments to explore.”

(Photo: Jandelyn “Jan” Plane speaks at the SIGCSE Technical Symposium.)

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