The Changing Faces of Computer Engineering

— Mason Lipman • • August 2017

Four Local Women Entering Degree Programs at Universities This Fall

Engineering-Morgan Brown

Rolesville High School graduate Morgan Brown will be attending Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terra Haute, Indiana, to study computer engineering. Photo courtesy of Rhonda Brown.

Engineering is a male-dominated field, but that doesn’t deter four young women from the area from pursuing degrees in computer engineering. Rolesville High School graduates Morgan Brown and Oluchi Chukwunyere and Franklinton High School graduates Shelby Brown and Naomi Smith are pursuing a variety of specialties in their chosen field this fall.

Morgan Brown is entering a computer engineering program at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a small private school in Terra Haute, Indiana, that she visited this past October. Rose-Hulman has been a coeducational institution since 1991.

Based on her visit, she said, “While the school’s history as a men’s-only institution is still visible, more women than I expected were there.”

Brown gained interest in hardware while working with her dad on IT jobs. She loved working with her hands, and getting to take computers apart and put them back together again helped to cement an admiration for hardware engineering, which is what she says will be her specialty.

Chukwunyere plans to attend North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, or N.C. A&T,  to study computer engineering. First, though, this summer she is part of the Google CSI program in Boston, Massachusetts. The program is an intensive summer program that takes place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Every day we are learning a new type of code,” said Chukwunyere, who has gained knowledge in HTML, CSS and Python thus far. “Basically, it’s like completing a semester of school in a day. So, with this program I feel like I’m putting myself in the right position for when I start school.”

Chukwunyere was one of 30 students for the Google CSI program out a pool of more than 4,000 applicants.

“I actually wasn’t even interested in the program at first, but I did get the chance of a lifetime,” she said.

Engineering-S. Brown-N. Smith

Shelby Brown (left), headed for East Carolina, and Naomi Smith (right), headed for UNC Charlotte, are graduates of Franklinton High School and this fall will enter five-year master’s degree programs for computer engineering.
Photo by Riley Lipman

Shelby Brown will be attending East Carolina University to pursue a five-year master’s degree program in computer engineering, and Smith is pursuing a five-year master’s degree at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Brown and Smith both aspire to start their own businesses.

“My ideal job would be working for a company like Google or IBM, and then hopefully one day creating my own software and my own business,” Brown said, adding that one interest of hers would be to create software that could be used to make networking between businesses easier and more efficient.

Brown and Smith took Computer Programming 1 together at Franklinton High, learning the basics of programming and cultivating a serious interest in pursuing software engineering for their careers. In the second level of computer classes, Brown and Smith were the only girls in their class. This did not discourage them, however. Despite feeling outnumbered and even alienated from their classmates at times, they said they became more determined to enter the field because there were so few women, and black women especially, who enter computer programming.

Smith said her ideal career would be to start her own technical support company, because technical support will always be needed by corporations and tech support specialists need to understand new technology as computing technology rapidly gets more powerful.

“That’s what makes it so exciting and so enticing,” Smith said. “Being able to be the new face of computer science, the new face of a whole network, and being able to bring that to the table and inspire other girls.”