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Swarts creates STRAWS Endowed Professorship of Computer Science at NKU, awarded to a woman

Northern Kentucky University is paving the way for women in technology, thanks to a gift from Dr. Carol Swarts.

Swarts’ support establishes the STRAWS Endowed Professorship of Computer Science, which creates the first endowed faculty position awarded to a woman in NKU’s College of Informatics.

“Dr. Swarts has long embodied all of the qualities that we value most in our community,” said NKU President Ashish Vaidya. “Her inspiring generosity in support of faculty research, scholarship and engaged learning advances student success in remarkable ways.”

Dr. Carol Swarts

Swarts is a longtime friend of the university and her philanthropy continues to advance the success of NKU students and faculty. She wanted to underscore the university’s commitment to building the visibility and prominence of women in science and technology career fields, something the College of Informatics has spent more than a decade working on. NKU and Swarts announced Dr. Alina Campan, a professor of Computer Science, as the inaugural STRAWS Professor of Computer Science on Sept. 3.

“Many of the early computer science pioneers were women, but we still see underrepresentation across the board,” said Swarts. “We live in a world that presents us with many challenges around technology, privacy, social media, and disinformation. NKU’s College of Informatics is confronting these challenges with extraordinary faculty members like Dr. Campan. It’s my privilege to support her research and professional development.”

Campan’s groundbreaking research on data mining and data privacy earned a Yahoo Research Best Paper award in 2008. She collaborates with faculty in journalism, computer science and statistics to understand the spreading of disinformation on social media. In the classroom, Campan redesigned NKU’s general education course that introduces students to writing code.

“Dr. Swarts’ generosity will truly inspire women in science,” said Campan. “Investing in computer science as a part of STEM education will strengthen our abilities to develop opportunity pipelines in this highly future-focused field.”

More than 28 percent of the university’s computer science faculty members are women, an unusually high percentage in a male-dominated field. NKU faculty helped establish the Tri-State Women in Computing Conference (TRIWiC) in 2011, an annual conference that celebrates women in computer science.

NKU is also one of the top-ranked universities in the country and the highest-ranked in the Cincinnati Tri-State area for women in computing, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Many graduates of the program go on to become business leaders.

“At Kroger Technology, our success depends on a stream of brilliant tech talent,” said Debbie Kramer, Senior Director for Privacy at Kroger Technology and Digital and NKU Computer Science alum. “We support the advancement of women and under-represented groups in tech, and are proud of the work of the NKU College of Informatics in this area. The naming of Dr. Campan to this professorship is especially welcome, given her contributions to the field of data privacy.

“She will serve as a role model to future generations as younger women see someone like them succeed; they are more likely to say ‘I can do that, too,’ which is good for business, the university, and women.”

NKU is home to one of the nation’s earliest data science programs and the region’s first and only cybersecurity program. Computer science is the university’s largest STEM department and offers two of the top three enrolled majors, with more than 800 students.

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