Computer Science and Engineering PhD candidate Stephanie Valentine has been selected as a recipient of the 2013 Susan M. Arseven '75 Make-A-Difference Memorial Award. The Susan M. Arseven '75 Make-A-Difference Memorial Award was established to encourage and provide financial assistance to women pursuing advanced degrees in science and engineering fields. The award is presented in conjunction with the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) annual professional development and career conference.
Stephanie received a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota in 2011 and plans to receive the Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science in 2016. Among Stephanie's recent honors are the 2012 Innovative Applications of AI Deployed Application Award and the Texas A&M 15th Annual Student Research Week Graduate Oral Presentation award. She is the media officer for Aggie Women in Computer Science, a teaching assistant in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, and the assistant conference coordinator of the "Design Creativity + Cognition Workshop" that was held in College Station in 2012.
Stephanie's main academic objective is to study and build philanthropic, intelligent, and human-centered systems and relate concepts to a career in academia. To this end, her "Kidgab" research includes a social network designed and built for children grades 4-8 to improve cybercitizenship and minimize cyberbullying. Stephanie's unique background plays an integral role in her thesis work, outreach, and future goals. A quote from Stephanie's award essay: "I often joke with my friends that I'm from 'the hood'. I grew up in a very low-income, majority- minority neighborhood in Omaha, Nebraska where it was safer to stay inside with the curtains closed than play outside with the neighbor kids. Over half of my high school freshman class dropped out, were expelled, or did not graduate due to failing grades. I was blessed that my family and teachers were invested in my academic success and always encouraged me to rise to (and surpass) my potential.... Trouble was the norm, though, so throughout high school, I was bullied, bruised and spat on (literally) by those self-established to be higher up on the 'high school hierarchy.' This treatment affected my education significantly, and though I was eventually able to turn each bruise into determination and each insult into resolve, I saw many others in my position that were entirely overcome by the poison of violence. I decided then that I needed to work to prevent bullying and violence every day, even in a small way, in hopes that someday, no child will ever feel the despair I felt and saw all around me."
Stephanie plans to use her award funds to be mutually beneficial for her own research as well as for those walking her path, specifically in community groups for healthy development of children. Her essay states: "In order to complete my research objectives regarding social networking and cyberbullying, I will need to rely on the cooperation and participation of community groups for children such as Girl Scout Troops, Boy Scout Troops, religious youth groups, after-school programs, etc. for user studies. These user studies will include workshops for teaching group leaders, parents, and children how to use Kidgab, followed by several weeks of Kidgab use. The probability of such a group consenting to use Kidgab for any period of time without compensation is unlikely, since group leaders and parents are often busy, overwhelmed, and over-committed. However, with even a small financial incentive to offer the groups, the benefits for me and for the community will be extensive. I will benefit from the participation in my experiment and the groups will benefit from their increased awareness of cyberbullying and good cybercitizenship."
Stephanie is a member of the Sketch Recognition Lab, which is directed by her advisor Associate Professor Dr. Tracy Hammond. A quote from Dr. Hammond's reference note: "Stephanie has also proven herself to be a strong mentor.... Stephanie has a strong interest in education, driving her interest in Mechanix and KidGab. She has ￼￼￼often confided in me that her dream job is to be a university professor at a teaching college. This interest has led her to choose to work as a TA many times, juggling research and teaching. Stephanie has a passion for working with students, and believes that inspiring other students is crucial and a vital use of her time. She constantly volunteers to give lab demos, and has given countless hour-long or more lectures to undergraduates at our local and community events, inspiring many young students. Stephanie desires to positively impact the world around her in everything that she says and does.... Stephanie is a brilliant researcher, publishing several high-profile papers, as well as a dedicated teacher and mentor. Her ability to multitask teaching, research, and service at such a young stage in her career foretells her being a strong university professor in her future.... It is notable that her choice of use for the funds not only will help her to be successful in her research endeavors, but will also help encourage young women to look at STEM in a more favorable light."