Shana Watters Earns the Women’s Center Charlotte Striebel Equity Award

Department of Computer Science & Engineering Teaching Professor Shana Watters has earned the Office for Equity and Diversity, Women’s Center's 2023-2024 Charlotte Striebel Equity Award. The award recognizes a University of Minnesota faculty or staff member who goes above and beyond daily responsibilities to promote access for the common good, to undo bias and discrimination, or to build capacity for diverse and equitable campus communities. Earlier this year, Watters also earned the University of Minnesota Provost’s Unit Service Award for her countless service contributions to the department.

“It feels like coming full circle in many ways,” said Watters. “When I was a grad student, these awards were really instrumental. The Women's Center actually gave awards for initiatives ensuring that women were getting opportunities to do different things. Maria (Gini) and I applied for an award to be able to take a group of women to one of the early Grace Hopper conferences. An award coming from the Women's Center that has supported me from the time I was a grad student to now is very meaningful to me.”

Watters has been at the forefront of a number of different initiatives at the Department, College and University level during her tenure at the U of M. Last year, Watters led the development and execution of the Lind Hall Diversity Wall, which commemorates the history of computer science and highlights those whose contributions were silenced and not properly recognized throughout history. Additionally, Watters is the faculty advisor for a number of student groups, organizes youth summer camps and an annual trip to the Grace Hopper Conference, serves as the ICPC regional coordinator and faculty senator, and is a community member for the Academic Integrity Matters program. In collaboration with Professor Maria Gini, she also instituted complementary courses to introductory computer science courses with a goal of lowering the DFW rate - which measures students that receive a D or F, or withdraw from the course.

“The initial data was showing that the smaller classes were showing persistence better for young women,” said Watters. “When you're young in your field, you're beginning to understand how the field works. I'm really looking forward to doing the deep dive on this data because now we're starting to feel like we have enough to be able to say yes this works instead of it being anecdotal.”

Watters strongly believes that when people are uplifted and supported by the community that they're able to do their best and finest work. She credits her colleagues within the Department and the people who supported her throughout her career for the impact she has been able to make at the University.

“That's the hard part for me about awards,” said Watters. “You never earn an award by yourself; it is always shared. When you get an award as an individual, you have to realize that you can't just accept it for yourself. You're accepting it in the place of many. I’d love to share this with my colleagues, especially Maria Gini, who I just have the greatest utmost respect for and love as a colleague, mentor and friend. The department has also been very, very supportive of all of my endeavors. I'm just so honored by my department that they think of me like that.”

The Charlotte Striebel Equity Award comes with a $1,000 grant for professional development. Watters plans to use the grant to attend the annual TAPIA Conference.

“The TAPIA conference focuses on the things that are near and dear to me, like accessibility, diversity, and ensuring that we're providing opportunities to our upcoming students that are coming from different and wide diverse backgrounds,” said Watters. “In the past, we have presented workshops at this conference, so if our workshop gets accepted next year, maybe we will come up with something a little different that is in the spirit of the Women’s Center.”

Learn more about the Women’s Center and the Charlotte Striebel Equity Award