Reconfiguring Technology’s Landscape

Reconfiguring Technology’s Landscape

In a field dominated by men, Spelman College associate professor Dr. Andrea W. Lawrence is using her ingenuity to ensure that African American women assume a presence on technology’s vast landscape. As president of the Association of Departments of Computer Science/Engineering at Minority Institutions, the Purdue University alumna is a leading player in the national effort to produce more African Americans in technology.
Lawrence initially came to Spelman as an undergraduate in the mid ’60s, but left in 1967 to accompany her then-husband to Purdue, where he was pursuing graduate studies. She completed her undergraduate studies there, but eventually returned to Spelman to teach. When she joined the faculty in 1983, she had her master’s, but her colleagues persuaded her that in order to have a full career in postsecondary education, she would need a doctorate. So, with the support of her three daughters, she dove in and completed her doctorate in 1993.
“I am the first African American to get a Ph.D. in computer science at Georgia Tech,” she says.
Today, Lawrence is chairwoman of the computer science department and is a significant contributor to Spelman’s being ranked 41st in Black Issues’ 2001 edition of the “Top 100” for its production of African American students with baccalaureate degrees in engineering. Its 18 graduates constituted 100 percent of the department’s graduating class that year.
“I tell my students that if you concentrate and learn all that you can while you’re here, you’ll be ready to go to any graduate school or into any career that you want to,” she says.
Lawrence’s personal research interest is in the field of human computer interaction. She is particularly focused on ways that computer animations can be used to teach computer algorithms. Though she sometimes laments that her teaching and administrative duties leave her little time to pursue research, she never regrets choosing teaching over a career in industry.
“I thought it was important to be a role model and encourage students to follow in my footsteps,” she says.
—  By Cheryl D. Fields



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