An Original ‘IT Girl’

Deb NoskyDeb Nosky ’81 didn’t know then—nor did she remember today—that she was one of only 28 female students in the computer science program. What she remembers most about her SUNY Oswego experience was feeling surrounded by strong female role models—at that time, College President Virginia Radley, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Barb Gerber, all the female coaches of women’s sports teams and her database course instructor Bette Brindle.

“Oswego set the stage for me with women succeeding in leadership roles—in all areas of campus,” Deb said. “I have no idea how many women were in my computer science classes. It wasn’t something I thought about then (although I would love to know that now) because I was just so fascinated by the programming languages and courses.”

The Oswego native enrolled at the college originally to become a teacher. One day, she was asked to tutor another student on a writing assignment. It turns out the writing assignment was actually a COBOL programming assignment, but the solution came easy to her so she decided to take a computer science course and was hooked.

Within a few years, she picked up a master’s in adult education from Syracuse University and was able to combine her passion for teaching with her aptitude for computer science by working in information technology. For a decade, she served as the event and IT director for Susan G. Komen of CNY Race for the Cure, and helped use data to strengthen the fundraiser that raised $750,000 and attracted more than 8,000 participants for the nonprofit.

Today, with 35 years of experience as an IT professional, she is a professor of practice and director of the undergraduate degree program at Syracuse’s School of Information Studies
(iSchool). She also develops workshops for the annual “It Girls” program for female high school students—a “slumber party meets hackathon” that is meant to inspire and create a pathway for girls to study information technology as an academic discipline. Some of the workshops include tasks like using math formulas to design lines that are incorporated into fabrics for the fashion industry or using information retrieval skills to identify where a photo of a window was taken (the girls successfully tracked down the country and location of the window!).

“Research shows that a better solution to a problem is achieved with a diversity of experience, perspective and opinions working together,” said Deb, who proudly touts the fact that the female-to-male ratio is 44-to-56 percent in her iSchool program and who would like to see the acronym STEM altered to STIM, to include an emphasis on information.

“I dare you to think of one field that doesn’t involve information technology and management,” she said. “I don’t think you can today. I hope that all of my students graduate with the knowledge and skillsets that make them valuable contributors in a variety of fields.”

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