Keynote Speakers

Jakita O. Thomas, Ph.D.

Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking: Exploring Social Change and Complex Cognitive Capability Development in the Double Bind

In spite of the exciting new initiatives being launched to expand access to Computer Science (CS) at all levels (e.g., President Obama’s CS For All initiative), the United States still faces challenges it has faced for decades concerning equity in CS education and technology-focused opportunities. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2044, more than 50% of the populations of the United States will be made up of people of color, with no one race or ethnic group holding a majority. At the same time, the U.S. anticipates significant job growth in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Computer Science (STEM+CS). A review of the literature in broadening participation research in CS reveals that, while research is being conducted focused on students of color (including black students) and women in CS, there is very little research investigating the unique intersection of gender and race experienced by girls and women of color, the double bind, and specifically, black women in Computer Science. Further, there is little research that focuses on how black girls and women develop complex cognitive skills and capabilities like, computational algorithmic thinking (CAT), which is the ability to design, implement, and assess the implementation of algorithms to solve a range of problems. CAT is an important scaffolded on-ramp as students develop more advanced computational thinking (CT) capabilities and apply CT to solve problems that are more constrained and require greater and greater expertise. This talk will present Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking (SCAT), a longitudinal between-subjects research project exploring how African-American middle-school girls develop CAT capabilities over time in the context of designing games for social change.

Jakita O. Thomas is a Philpott Westpoint Stevens Associate Professor of Computer Science and Software Engineering at Auburn University in Auburn, AL.  Dr. Thomas is also Director of the CUltuRally & SOcially Relevent (CURSOR) Computing Lab.  Her research interests include exploring the development of computational algorithmic thinking, promoting access to healthcare information and services for under-served populations, improving reasoning using expert cases, scientific reasoning, complex cognitive skills learning, and computer-supported collaborative learning.

She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer & Information Science with a minor in Mathematics from Spelman College in 1999.  In 2006, Dr. Thomas was conferred a Ph.D. in Computer Science with a specialization in the Learning Sciences and Technology from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, GA, where she was a Presidential Fellow, National Physical Science Consortium Fellow, tutor, mentor, and Research Assistant.

Dr. Thomas is a recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award (2012 – 2017).  She is also a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) (2016).  Dr. Thomas has also been awarded the Spelman College Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Junior Faculty Member (2013) as well as the Spelman College Presidential Award for Scholarly Achievement by a Junior Faculty Member (2015).


Jeanne Johnson

‘Always on.’ Stories and advice from a lifetime as a minority in technology.

Jeanne Johnson is a Business Development Director in the world-wide Strategy and Planning team of the One Commercial Partner organization at Microsoft.  With a lifetime of experience in the technology industry, Jeanne focuses on the co-creation of profitable practice business models with those companies interested in rapid transformation by partnering with Microsoft. Prior to joining Microsoft, Jeanne started up, rapidly grew, and profitably sold several technology companies in the United States. Specializing in systems integration, mobile application design and build, and re-architecting and optimizing legacy systems in the large enterprise; Johnson’s companies were known for the early adoption of disruptive technologies and the nontraditional partnering with her competitors to build greater success.

Jeanne lives on the beach in Washington State and has recently been recognized for her work in tsunami preparedness.  She is the proud mother of 3 adult children, rides a Harley Davidson, and enjoys cooking, gardening, and creating art.