Tearing Down Walls

By Jeff Barron, social media and photography intern

What does it mean to study computer science at Chico State? Jennifer Decker explains that it goes far beyond math and programming—at heart, computer science is about using technology to solve problems.

Decker, a junior, is also the president of Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE), the computer science honor society, which offers TA and volunteer work for the computer science department. She has worked for major tech companies such as Hewlett Packard and Cyan Inc. We asked her to give us some insight on her experiences in the major:

What do you like most about computer science?

I think it’s just the fact that computers are just progressing so rapidly. People have new ideas every single day; sites like HackerNews constantly have new pet projects popping up on them. I really just love the flow of perpetual information.IMG_1322

What was something you’ve had the opportunity to do here that you might not have done otherwise?

I hadn’t really seen myself as a leader until I came to Chico. I think I was a little socially awkward coming out of high school, and Chico really encouraged me to blossom socially. I’m currently president of UPE, and I’ve really been enjoying myself. I don’t think I would have the opportunity to become president if I were attending a larger school—I’d probably be too intimidated.

Why did you choose Chico?

I chose Chico partially because my mom and uncle really enjoyed their time there. My mom got her degree in accounting with a minor in computer science. My uncle also got his degree in computer science. Both of them chose the computing field as their career paths.

My mom really encouraged me to go Chico as opposed to a larger school. She got accepted into Berkeley, went for one week, and absolutely hated it. The lecture halls were way too big. She didn’t know any of her professors. At the last minute, she decided to go to Chico and ended up loving it due to the relationships she developed with her professors. I’m the same way—I prefer to get know my instructors rather than just being another face.

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Computer science is a field where women are underrepresented. What are your thoughts on that gender divide?

This is a topic that part of me really loves and part of me really hates. I think it is extremely important that we reach out to more women, especially at a young age, who are interested in STEM fields. It doesn’t take a genius to see the ratio of women to men is ridiculously skewed.

That being said, I hate this topic because to me gender should not be this big of an issue. If we’re going to be judging people, it should absolutely not be on their gender. Passion and ability are much more important than what’s underneath your clothing.

All in all, I really think that we need to convince more women that it’s worthwhile to go into this field. I think the best way to do so is to just show girls what computing is at an early age. I think education in general, regardless of gender, would produce more passionate and receptive software engineers.

Any advice you want to impart on someone who is interested in computer science?

Regardless of your gender, if you’re interested in computer science—actually, even if you’re not interested in computer science—GO TALK TO YOUR PROFESSORS. They are some of the most wonderful people on this campus. They really want people to succeed, and they really care about their students. You may feel intimidated because they have all this experience. Don’t feel that way. They are here for you.

You’re not just another face to them. The more you can tear down walls, the easier academics will be for you in general, regardless of your major.

Don’t be a stranger.

If you are interested in joining UPE you can find more information here: http://www.ecst.csuchico.edu/upe/