Ariella Feuchtwanger had never tried computer programming before she enrolled at Touro’s Lander College of Arts and Sciences in Flatbush. This year, the Touro College senior is spending her Sundays teaching high school girls how to code.
Ariella is a facilitator in Touro’s Girls Who Code program, a year-long club that teaches computer coding to high school girls in order to spark their interest in technology careers. The program currently enrolls 40 students from a dozen different Bais Yaakov high schools in New York. Girls Who Code is a national nonprofit working to close the gender gap in technology. According to Girls Who Code, by 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs available in computing related fields. US graduates are on track to fill 29 percent of those jobs. Women are on track to fill just three percent of these jobs.
Girls Who Code provides a national curriculum for the course. Ariella and the seven other female computer science majors at Touro who teach the high school students rely on this curriculum. “I wanted to do this because I never had this kind of opportunity when I was younger,” Ariella says. She will graduate this year and has already been accepted to a Master’s Program in Cyber Security at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering.
Tova Lederer, another Touro computer science major who serves as a facilitator, said the program is a resume-builder. “I’m looking for a job in programming and several interviewers have commented about my involvement in Girls Who Code. It means I know how to facilitate a group and lead people,” she says.
Guest speakers add another dimension to the program, sharing their backgrounds and introducing the students to a wide range of career options. On this particular Sunday, Sarah Hoffman discussed machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence. Hoffman is the Lead Machine Learning Engineer at Factset Research Systems. The high school seniors and juniors listen raptly as she discusses the lucrative jobs in her field, describes how computers can be “taught” to process information, and explains the skills needed to succeed. “Who loves math?” she asks. Hands shoot up around the room.
Touro professor and computer science chair Dr. Shmuel Fink launched Touro’s Girls Who Code program in October 2016 at the campus in Flatbush. “This is a great opportunity for everyone. Young women who attend the club get a chance to try out computer science and get a head start on a career. They learn valuable skills, even if they never work in technology. Touro students who facilitate are able to demonstrate to prospective employers that they have leadership skills and that they are both passionate and knowledgeable about technology,” says Dr. Fink.
Dr. Fink makes an effort to get to know each computer science major personally. He sets the tone for the department in which faculty members are accessible to students and eager to answer their questions. Touro in Flatbush offers majors in computer science, information systems, and digital multimedia design.
Tova, Ariella, and their fellow instructors try to model this approach. Students spend the first semester learning the basics of coding and they spend the second semester working in teams to build websites. One student is working on a website about different types of schools and their target markets. “I’m thinking about computer programming as a career. I wouldn’t have even known about it before,” she says.
About the Touro College and University System
Touro is a system of non-profit institutions of higher and professional education. Touro College was chartered in 1970 primarily to enrich the Jewish heritage, and to serve the larger American and global community. Approximately 18,000 students are currently enrolled in its various schools and divisions. Touro College has 29 branch campuses, locations, and instructional sites in the New York area, as well as branch campuses and programs in Berlin, Jerusalem, and Moscow. New York Medical College; Touro University California and its Nevada branch campus; Touro University Worldwide and its Touro College Los Angeles division; as well as Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Ill. are separately accredited institutions within the Touro College and University System. For further information on Touro College, please go to: http://www.touro.edu/news/.