Brilliant Figures

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

In Hidden Figures, four female African-American mathematicians and computer scientists used adding machines, pencils and slide rules to launch rockets into space. These remarkable women, known as “human computers,” were relegated to the background at NASA because of their race and gender. Each woman faced challenges and offenses while contributing to the success of space missions with brilliant minds, strong character, and an unshakable work ethic. Yet, at least until the publication of the book and movie, they remained in history’s background, hidden. 

Dorothy Vaughn, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Christine Darden are female mathematicians, engineers, and computer scientists whose contributions were instrumental, but whose names are unknown by young girls of all races, eager for role models.

At CCI, we are cognizant of the progress made in the past 50 years, but more so, of how much remains to be done. We must celebrate the success of our African-American and other underrepresented minority graduates, enabling and supporting their success as students, and cultivating the conditions that address the source of inequity and segregation in all of our students.

We are proud to highlight the success of our diverse graduates and shine bright lights on them. This month, we started with Dr. Evie Powell (Ph.D. 2012), President and Creative Director of Verge of Brilliance LLC, an independent game studio based in Seattle. The joy she finds in researching and designing new games is inspiring. This week, we are hosting and featuring Larry Ogunjobi (’17), who earned two degrees here - one in CS and one in Biology - before making his mark in the NFL. 

Throughout the year, we plan to feature a great line up of African-American and other underrepresented minority graduates. The diversity of personal interests, drive, and career paths is the kind of mosaic we want to show our current and future students. These Alumni Spotlights will appear on our website, in social media and on our displays around the College.

The professional accomplishments of Vaughn, Johnson, Jackson, and Darden make them remarkable scientists, engineers, and citizens. That their achievements came despite a life of hurdles, adversities, and indignities qualify them outsized heroes deserving of our utmost respect and admiration. 

For every African-American woman (and man) who has succeeded in spite of these hurdles, hundreds more would have succeeded were it not for those hurdles and indignities; and tens of thousands more would have succeeded with the right nudge, encouragement, and support from teachers, systems, and society. The CCI faculty and staff are continuously reflecting on these issues to uncover and remove hidden hurdles, and to design and initiate actions and processes that promote the success of every student. 

It is tremendously rewarding to celebrate the success of our graduates. It is equally, if not more, rewarding to be partners in our students’ self-discovery, nurturing their development to help them become successful graduates who make invaluable contributions to society.

-Dean Fatma Mili

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