Valerie Galluzzi Helping Bring Change in Computer Science, One Student at a Time

Thursday, April 07, 2016
Valerie Galluzzi

Passionate About Learning: Valerie Galluzzi, first-year assistant professor of computer science and software engineering, helped faculty colleagues judge a student robotics competition earlier this school year.

The Power of One is a principle that Valerie Galluzzi carries into the classroom as a computer science professor who is striving to help change the face of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-one student at a time.

In her first year as a member of the Rose-Hulman faculty, Galluzzi has encouraged the formation of a proposed student organization, Women of Like Fields Passionate About Computing (WOLF PAC), which is striving to get more females to study computer science, computer engineering, software engineering, and electrical engineering on campus.

Nudging females to greater participation in STEM fields has become a national challenge in recent years, especially in computing. Just 17 percent of Google's tech workers are women and at Twitter it's only 10 percent, according to multiple published reports. A 2011 U.S. Department of Commerce report suggested a dearth of female role models as among the reasons for these low numbers.

This is a problem that Galluzzi knows well from experience. After all, women made up only 15 percent of computer science faculty members at engineering colleges in the fall of 2011, according to statistics from the American Society of Engineering Education. But now, she sees signs of improvement.

"I'm seeing more female students in my classes and WOLF PAC is reaching out to get even more female students at Rose-Hulman for the future. It takes a series of small steps to make a big impact. We're taking steps in the right direction," she says.

Galluzzi became interested in computer science while taking an introductory programming class during her senior year in high school in Hawaii. Her educational journey took her across the United States to earn a bachelor's degree in computer science from Mount Holyoke College (South Hadley, Massachusetts), and a master's degree and doctorate in computer science from the University of Iowa, specializing in sensor networks and machine learning.

In her first three academic quarters at Rose-Hulman, Galluzzi has taught courses introducing students to software development and computer systems. She also has joined two faculty colleagues teaching a specially-designed topics course on the Internet of Things, featuring wearable fitness tracking technology.

"I became a teacher to make a big impact on lots of people's lives," Galluzzi remarks. "Teaching freshmen is especially gratifying because you're having life-changing conversations while introducing them to completely new areas."

Later, she adds, "I love meeting people who are passionate and excited about what they're doing. I find that in my students and faculty colleagues at Rose-Hulman. You see students expand their academic horizons throughout the course of a 10-week course. Every day is a gift and I feel you should always give your best to others."

Those efforts are greatly appreciated by the students Galluzzi has already impacted in her short time on campus.

"She makes special treats for WOLF PAC meetings and always has encouraging words of advice for what we're trying to do," says WOLF PAC co-founder Samantha Staszak, a senior computer science major. "When I told her I had been accepted to graduate school (at the University of California, Berkeley), she was so delighted that I would be taking another step toward reaching my personal goals."

As for herself, Galluzzi has interests in reading, arts and crafts, singing, and travelling.

"A person should have many passions, while always being concerned about helping others," she says. "My computing skills and being a college professor have afforded me the opportunity to explore so many things in life. I'm just getting started."