Peer Academic Leaders Bring Knowledge, Mentoring, and Connection to the Douglass Community
Ananya Prakash, DRC’19 joined Douglass intending to major in computer science. As a woman planning a career in a STEM field, the programs offered by the Douglass Project for Women in Math, Science and Engineering appealed to her. However, another Douglass program, the Peer Academic Leaders (PALs), made such an impact during her first year, that she broadened both her academic goals and career plans for after Douglass.
“I joined Douglass because I was interested the support offered to women in STEM. During my first year, the PAL assigned to my dorm was really helpful, and I decided I wanted to give back and applied to become a PAL myself,” said Ananya.
The Peer Academic Leaders (PALs) are Douglass students who serve as advisors and mentors to the Douglass student community. These women help to shape life at Douglass, acting as advisors and mentors, and work to create an enriching and vibrant environment that provides a base of support to all Douglass students.
“Through being a PAL, I realized I enjoy interacting with people, and I didn’t want to just focus on computer science. So, I changed my major to Information Technology and Informatics, which teaches computer science but with an emphasis on teaching students how to interact with people in business.”
The Information Technology and Informatics (ITI) major, offered through the School of Communication and Information teaches students how to evaluate, implement, use and manage information technologies for organizations and corporations. Ananya is enhancing her studies with a minor in Business Administration. She also plans to apply to the 4+1 program in ITI, a dual-degree program that combines the Bachelor Degree in ITI with a Masters of Information degree.
In addition to the PALs program, Ananya is a mentor in the Douglass-DIMACS Computing Corps, which mentors middle school students in the fundamentals of computing.
Ananya’s interest in technology led her to become the PAL for the Computer Science Living Learning Community for Women (CS-LLC). As the first community dedicated to women in computer science at Rutgers, and possibly in the nation, it created an enriching educational environment with resources, including peer academic mentoring, to increase the recruitment and retention of women in this academic major. This summer, Ananya has worked with Cynthia Sanchez Gomez, Director of the CS-LLC, to create a peer mentoring program specifically for women in the CS-LLC and the Reilly Douglass Engineering Living Learning Community (Reilly DELLC).
“I was a PAL for the 18 students in the Computer Science Living Learning Community, and that was a lot of students for just one PAL to look after. I thought a “Big/Little” program could provide more support, and I ended up connecting with Cynthia who was also looking at creating something similar.”
The peer mentoring program matches students who have participated in the CS-LLC or Reilly DELLC with students who are joining those programs during their first year at Douglass. These mentors know best what the incoming students will experience, and provides another opportunity for Douglass women to connect with their peers.
“Sadly, the Computer Science Living Learning Community didn’t exist during my first year, but I wanted to find a way to give other students the support they need to success in this academic major.”