Two highly-deserving 2023 grads from the UBC Computer Science department were the recipients of a newly-formed scholarship, the Bit Quill Technologies Award in Computer Science, thanks to the generosity of Bit Quill (recently acquired by Improving).
The former Bit Quill provided these awards of $2,500 each, in support of students who exude a commitment to teamwork, relationships, excellence, and ethics. Specifically, they recognize individuals who have helped foster a welcoming, respectful, kind, and supportive learning environment among their peers; and/or, have advocated for those who are struggling or underrepresented. These awards are in addition to another scholarship the company already provides the department: the Bit Quill Technologies Award for Women in Computer Science.
UBC CS alumna Asrai Porter is the VP of People at Improving, and said, “We believe in supporting students in CS, and in fostering a positive, nurturing, learning experience.” The company also employs several CS graduates and engages in the UBC Co-op program.
Awardee: Kara Deane
One of the scholarship recipients, Kara Deane, graduated with a combined major in Computer Science and Physics in May 2023, and she has recently started UBC’s WKTEP program with the goal of becoming a high school teacher.
Throughout her time in the computer science department, Kara was very involved with CODE (Committee for Outreach, Diversity and Equity), volunteered for the GIRLsmarts4tech program, and was an academic assistant for the student development portfolio. She also helped with the Coffee Chats mentorship program and events such as the annual Tech Crawl that encourages women to consider studying computer science. Kara also represented the CS Department in events such as Meet Your Major and Science Rendezvous, and helped write weekly newsletters to the CS student body.
Kara said about the award, “I feel so honoured to be recognized in this way. I have loved my degree program and have felt continuously passionate and curious about the subjects I study. This award allows me to maintain that passion and curiosity as it affirms that I deserve to be in my field, and alleviates some of the financial stress associated with university.”
Further Kara created a mentorship program between lower and upper-level students through the Physics Society, and also introduced the Positive Space Campaign in order to ensure 2SLBTQIA+ students felt welcome in the Physics Society lounge space.
Professor Cinda Heeren, Associate Head for Undergraduate Affairs, Department of Computer Science, who was one of Kara’s nominators, said “Kara has been a perfect leader in our outreach programs: she has a heart for service, an infectious and sincere enthusiasm, an enchanting warmth that engages learners, the creativity to develop high quality teaching materials, and the energy to do it all while excelling at her schoolwork.”
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Awardee: James Shaw
The second recipient of the new Bit Quill award was James Shaw who graduated from the Bachelor of Computer Science second degree program, after previously completing a degree in Materials Engineering.
Throughout his time in the program, James made quite a difference through his efforts within the computer science community. James served as President of the Bachelor of Computer Science Student Association (BCSSA) at UBC, and was a member of the UBC Chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.
James promoted rural education by reaching out to Indigenous students through the non-profit publication, ‘Geering Up.’ He also co-wrote curriculums to help instructors include Indigenous reconciliation in the engineering courses they teach. “It’s like weaving Indigenous ways of knowing with Western science concepts,’ he said.
Earlier this year, The Logic, Canada’s tech and innovation publication, named James a Top Prospect/leading innovator.
Last year, James was asked to contribute to a program launched by Amazon Canada and TakingITGlobal (a charity working with Indigenous youth), that was designed to get Canadian high school students excited about learning to code. By merging technology with music from Indigenous artists, the program called ‘Your Voice is Power,’ has far-reaching components, and James was thrilled to be instrumental in the initiative, alongside UBC Computer Science’s Professor Cinda Heeren.
“It's through the generous contributions of companies like Bit Quill that many students can build a positive learning environment for others,” said James. “Computer Science students are subject to heavy credit workloads, so financial awards allow us to focus on our learning and extra-curricular activities, instead of pursuing part-time work.”