Q&A with Cindy Greenwood from CWIT

Cindy Greenwood with Center for Women in Technology

Can you tell us how Building STEPS came onto your radar screen and why you felt compelled to engage with the program?

I learned of Building STEPS a few years ago when Building STEPS staff members reached out to me to let me know one of your graduating seniors would be attending UMBC and majoring in Computer Science. Since I work in the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT), the staff asked if I could meet with this student and offer her a bit of support. This request prompted me to learn more about Building STEPS and I have been impressed with it as an organization since then.

In Spring 2021, I was taking my capstone course as I earned a graduate certificate in Community Leadership at UMBC. Each student needed to choose a community partner to work with for our capstone projects. I thought immediately of Building STEPS and saw an opportunity for me to fulfill my capstone course requirements, while also hopefully building a relationship between CWIT and Building STEPS so we can collaborate more in the future.

Describe CWIT (Center for Women in Technology) for our readers.

The mission of the UMBC Center for Women in Technology is to enable success for all women and other underrepresented groups in technology fields. In the College of Engineering & Information Technology, CWIT supports students with a nurturing and challenging community, transformative leadership experiences, and professional development opportunities.

What that means in practice is that we offer programs (and scholarships) to support students in computing and engineering majors and build community among those students as well as faculty, staff, and alumni. We also provide a variety of programs and activities for K-12 students with the goal of encouraging younger girls with interests in computing and engineering to pursue those interests in college and beyond. Additionally, we work with the College of Engineering & IT on gender climate research, advocate on and off campus for women in technology, and contribute to the national conversation about best practices in technology education through research, conference presentations, publications, etc.

Explain how our two programs will intersect this summer.

This summer (and hopefully beyond), CWIT and Building STEPS are collaborating on a 6-week summer math tutoring program. Six current UMBC students who are affiliated with CWIT will serve as math tutors on four days per week for Building STEPS students participating in the organization’s larger summer program.

The goals of the math tutoring program include helping students improve their fundamental math skills and to encourage them to think about math and their ability to do well in math courses with a growth mindset. Both of these goals are components that have been shown to improve college success.

A UMBC alumna who was part of the Sherman STEM Teachers Scholars Program when she was a student, Alexis O’Malley, has graciously agreed to enhance the existing math tutoring curriculum that Building STEPS used last year. Alexis has taught math at both the high school and college levels and is doing an incredible job with the curriculum.

The UMBC students serving as tutors will complete training next week and will receive the curriculum at that time to allow them time to get familiar with it as they prepare to deliver the content and help the Building STEPS students practice it, starting later this month.

It must bring you immense pride seeing your CWIT Scholars helping other students. Can you elaborate on how the Scholars will work with and support Building STEPS students?

Yes! All of us in CWIT are excited for this collaboration. In addition to what I’ve mentioned above, the structure for the four-day-a-week tutoring is as follows:

  • Two of our tutors are designated as Lead Tutors and will deliver new content to the Building STEPS students on Mondays and Wednesdays.
  • The other four tutors are General Tutors and will work with the Building STEPS students on Tuesdays and Thursdays to practice the concepts taught on Mondays and Wednesdays.
  • In addition to conveying and practicing math content with the Building STEPS students, we are also encouraging the UMBC students to share their own experiences with math and college more broadly. We hope that our students can answer questions the high schoolers may have and serve in something of a mentoring role as well as being math tutors.

Can you share a favorite story of student success with our readers.

This is a tough one; there are so many great stories of our students succeeding that I could share. While I appreciate our students who excel throughout college, my favorite student success stories are those of students who struggled in some way and were able to overcome obstacles to succeed. One student from the second cohort of Cyber Scholars (the program that I directly manage) especially comes to mind. He was a computer science major and struggled with a few different required courses for the major. While anyone would be frustrated by that, and he certainly was, he never stopped believing that he could complete the major. He re-took a few courses along the way and graduated in 4.5 years. He got a great job in his field right out of UMBC and has grown in his career since then (and keeps in touch every now and then, which I love!).

I also love that, since I manage some of our K-12 programs, I sometimes get to know students while they are in high school and then get to work with them closely through their college careers. I remember one recent Cyber Scholar alumna in particular who attended our Cyber 101 weekend for high school girls her senior year and credited that program with helping her clarify what she wanted to do for a college major and hopefully a career. She came to UMBC and completed her degree with a computer science major and math minor and got a computing job by the time she graduated.