Gavin recognized with 2018 Woman of Year Award

June 18, 2018
Donna Gavin

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Donna Gavin, senior lecturer in the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, is the university’s 2018 Carol Sue Butts Woman of the Year Award recipient. This award recognizes female employees and students who make a difference for the lives of women.

Gavin started at UW-Platteville by teaching computer science part time in 1997, and she has consistently found ways to encourage the involvement of women in technical fields. Gavin advocates for women to join the computing field by running several sessions for the Women in EMS programs, including Pioneering your Future in STEM and the Fall Career Day, which serve women in middle school and high school.

Gavin has helped organize a new UW-Platteville club and a club for young women off campus in the past year. The on-campus club is a student chapter of the Association of Computing Machinery – Women. This organization emphasizes the full engagement of women in all aspects of the computing field. The student chapter at UW-Platteville plans to focus on reaching out to the community, working with the Girls Who Code club and hosting social activities. In the wider Platteville community, Gavin organized a Girls Who Code Club. Girls Who Code is a national organization that assists middle school and high school girls learn the concepts of loops, variables, conditionals and functions while building a supportive sisterhood of peers and role models who help girls persist and succeed in computing.

“I am honored that one of my Girls Who Code mentors nominated me for this award,” Gavin said. “I appreciate that people believe what I am doing is making a difference. I hope that this award brings more attention to Girls Who Code because my focus is on finding the best ways to help these girls. I want to help these girls find and build their confidence.”

Gavin appreciates the support that she receives for working with these clubs. “I like serving these organizations because I enjoy working with women and seeing the different dynamics in their personalities,” Gavin said. “I enjoy seeing them step up and take opportunities that are presented to them.”

Developing a new Girls Who Code club is a large responsibility that Gavin took on this year, but she believes that the girls received a valuable experience regardless of the career path they end up choosing. Gavin led the group by focusing on team building and creating a cohesive group. This approach helped the girls be prepared to talk about their final projects and share their experience with others at their end of the year party. Along with family and friends, representatives from Esterline-Avista, UW-Platteville alumni, UW-Platteville Chancellor Dennis J. Shields and College of EMS Dean Dr. Molly Gribb were in attendance.

“One of the most important aspects of the club is building their self-confidence and showing that our group is a safe place,” Gavin said. “By the time the party came around, they all got up and talked in front of a large group of people.”

The local Girls Who Code chapter is inactive during the summer, but it will resume on Sept. 11. The club meets from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Platteville Public Library. For more information, visit www.uwplatt.edu/ems/girls-who-code.

“Girls Who Code is a great way to get women excited about STEM,” Gavin said. “I also think it is important to talk with students who are about to enter college. I talked to a group of physics students at Platteville High School recently to encourage them to consider a major in the sciences. I completed an hour of code session with them and brought flyers about Girls Who Code. I believe having the mentors at Girls Who Code meetings are crucial because then girls see college students actually doing it and having the confidence to code.”

Gavin will be recognized at the UW-Platteville all-campus convocation on Tuesday, Aug. 28.

Written by: Dalton Miles, Student Writer, Communications, milesda@uwplatt.edu

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