Computer science professor honored as visionary who changed the world through technology

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Valerie Barr, visiting professor of computer science, has been honored by the Association for Computing Machinery for her “outstanding contributions in supporting women in the field.”

As chair of the association’s Council on Women in Computing, Barr is credited with reinventing the council, increasing its effectiveness in supporting women in computing worldwide and encouraging participation in ACM.

From the announcement:

“Barr has been uniquely effective in turning good ideas about how to increase the participation of women in computing into tangible programs that yield measurable results.

When she first joined the Association for Computing Machinery’s Council on Women in Computing (ACM-W) in 2005, she launched a scholarship program. Barr and others believed that if more young women could attend major computer research conferences, they would be encouraged to continue in the field. Since its inception in 2006, the program has expanded the horizons of numerous young women internationally and has continued to grow.

Because of Barr’s adeptness at conveying her vision to funders, the program is 100 percent supported by industry contributions. Last year, the ACM-W Scholarship Program distributed $40,000 over 40 awards.

Since becoming the Chair of ACM-W in 2012, Barr has been a driving force in more than tripling the number of ACMW chapters around the world, from 50 to 180. One strategy that led to this growth was the introduction of special networking events in which colleges and universities with ACM-W chapters would invite students from neighboring colleges and encourage them to establish ACM-W chapters on their own campuses. ACM-W Councils in Europe and India oversee activities in their respective regions.

Another notable area of growth during Barr’s tenure as Chair has been a significant increase in ACM-W Celebrations, small conferences in which women from specific geographic regions come together for career fairs, industry panels and technical presentations. Celebrations events have expanded to Cuba and the Philippines, and one event is tailored specifically for community college students. Last year, 25 ACM-W Celebrations took place around the world.

ACM-W members especially look forward to Connections, a monthly newsletter Barr instituted that is sent to 36,000 people each month and is considered a “must read.”

Barr, who joined Union in 2004, will be honored at the ACM awards banquet June 24 in San Francisco.

The ACM is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges.