Secret to her success: Cuny opens doors for others

Janice Cuny searches for ways to give people more opportunities

WIT's new book, “No One Path,” is a collection of affectionate, but no less affecting, profiles of technology professionals who happen to be women. The 48 women profiled in the book reflect the many ways women have demonstrated leadership in science and technology — fields that, more than most, have long been the domain of men.

Here is an excerpt from the profile of Janice Cuny, as told to Cathy Hubbs.

On her current job: In 2004, Cuny was invited by the National Science Foundation to spearhead a program to increase opportunities for women, underrepresented minorities and people with disabilities. She launched the Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) program.

Women in government IT

Karyn Hayes-Ryan, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's Engineering Enterprise

Susan Keen, Navy's Enterprise Resource Planning Program

Deborah Loudon, Defense Department's National Reconnaissance Office

“Since 2000, high school students’ interest in the field of computer science and information technology has dropped by nearly 70 percent," she said. "Currently only 1 percent of incoming college freshmen are interested in computer science.”

The BPC program aims to change this scenario by encouraging more students — especially those who are underrepresented, such as women, people with disabilities, and other minorities — to pursue studies in the computing disciplines.

The BPC program is also working to improve high school computing for all students. Her goal is to get 10,000 teachers in 10,000 schools prepared to teach a new, three-course curriculum. The hope is to produce graduates who are savvy enough to know when and how to employ technology — people who are not just users but creators of technology.

On blazing a trail for women in technology: As one of the first 100 women admitted to Princeton University, she was given an opportunity that women before her had not received. After completing her doctorate, she was awarded the IBM faculty development award, which was created to provide women in the field of computer science an opportunity to become full professors.

She was invited to attend the Computer Research Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research. There, she found herself surrounded by powerful, action-oriented, proactive women. The committee’s primary goal is to attract women to computer science and engineering research and education at all levels, and it inspired her to spend the next 13 years actively working with that group to provide opportunities for young women.

On family life: Cuny and her husband adopted three children from the foster care system. That became the catalyst for her to serve as a court-appointed special advocate for other children in foster care, which she has done for the past nine years. She plans to work full time for the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association in retirement, “helping to ensure that children don’t get lost in the legal system and are placed in a safe, permanent home.”


Cathy Hubbs is chief information security officer at American University in Washington, D.C.

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