Female Leader in a Man’s Field: Scholarship allows student to attend sought-after conference


Nicolle Foucher ’15, of Monson, was initially an art major, but an introductory course in Computer Information Systems (CIS) captured her heart and mind and prompted a change of major.

“I knew it was what I wanted to do,” she explains.

One of Foucher’s professors, Karen Works, Ph.D., recognized Foucher’s talent during this introductory course. Dr. Works often encourages students to pursue CIS when she notices they have a passion or skill for it.

Foucher, she says, has both. “She loves being challenged,” Dr. Works says.

Dr. Works also noticed that Foucher was usually either one of very few females in her classes or the only female. This is what inspired Dr. Works to tell Foucher about the Grace Hopper Celebration, a convention designed to highlight the research and career interests of women in computer technology.

Last fall, the celebration took place in October in Phoenix, Ariz., and Foucher was there among thousands of other women. “It really opens doors to female students,” says Foucher. “It really gives them a lot of opportunities.”

Dr. Works believes Foucher belonged at such a conference based on her performance in the CIS courses and because Foucher is hard-working and very motivated. “Her male peers used to like to sit next to her because she knew what she was doing,” she says, with a laugh.

Foucher is the first student from Westfield State University to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration, and she was able to be there because of a scholarship she was awarded by conference leadership that covered the cost. The award she received is extremely competitive; this year, according to the Grace Hopper Celebration’s website, there was a 78 percent increase in the number of applicants, and the scholarship was only awarded to 26 percent of those who applied.

After receiving an email about the scholarship award, Foucher says, “It really hit me that I actually get to be a part of something big.”

The conference was indeed a big deal for Foucher, who enjoyed meeting other women and learning new information.

“There were so many technical sessions to attend, and the best part about it was that I could choose the ones I wanted to see and hear,” she says.

Dr. Works believes one focus of the conference is to bolster the confidence of women in the computer science field so they know they can succeed if they are motivated. She says she and Foucher plan to spread that word on campus by holding a gathering for minorities interested in CIS.

The event also served as a networking experience for Foucher, who attended the conference’s career fair to tell other people in attendance her story and hand out her resume.

The results were several exciting new opportunities after graduation, such as potential jobs at General Electric or Microsoft Windows; she has already interviewed once with each company and is hoping for follow-up interviews.

Foucher is excited about her life after graduating from Westfield State. She loves the CIS field, saying, “It will always bring new challenges and keep you on your feet with learning. The ability to create games, websites, programs, etc. from code is absolutely self-fulfilling. It gives you the ability to say, ‘I made that,’ and I love it.”

 Foucher mostly enjoys creating websites and computer games using code that she learns hands-on in her CIS courses.

 Foucher says, “It would be absolutely amazing to attend this conference again. I hope the next time I do attend it is because I am representing my company at the career fair or in some of the sessions offered.”


About Author

Leave A Reply