1st Black Female Computer Science PhD at the University of Michigan

The University of Michigan enrolled 59,933 students for the fall 2011 school semester. Out of almost 60 thousand students, 18,162 are enrolled in the  University’s Rackham Graduate School, and 2,750 are pursuing graduate level engineering degrees.

But that’s just numbers.

Imagine if out of a total of  almost 3,ooo students in your program, day in and day out, the only time you see another African- American female in your classes is when you look in the mirror.

Kyla McCullen’s graduation from University of Michigan

That was the case for Kyla McCullen, 29, who graduated this past year to become University of Michigan’s first African-American female computer science PhD alumna.

The Grio has more of the challenges she faced,

“My [graduate program chair] told me, ‘Not everyone is cut out to study computer science. Have you tried any other careers?’ He said I didn’t have what it took to study computer science,” she said. “That was the only time someone blatantly said to me to my face that I couldn’t do something. I can’t assign a reason why he said that, but I’m pretty sure it’s because of the way of I looked… I was really taken back of how dismissive he was about me.

Dr. McMullen has always had a passion for computer science and was nurtured throughout high school. Fortunately, the high school she attended had a special computer science track program. This meant exposure to a curriculum that most high schools lack, and the opportunity to take courses in computer programming and engineering early on, as reported by YourBlackWorld.net

Take a look at how the, Atlanta BlackStar breaks down the numbers for those pursuing a doctoral degree degree in computer science…

 Out of the more than 1,400 Americans who received Ph.D.s in computer science from 2010 to 2011, less than a quarter were female, and a mere 1.2 percent – 16 people – were African-American.

Congratulations Dr. Kyla McMullen for inspiring a new generation in computer science!

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