I've written before about why Hunter College CS is so important for NYC and I've been working hard to develop our Daedalus Scholars honors CS program - a program in which students receive a scholarship along with all sorts of special opportunities to add on to their in class CS education. The program and Hunter CS as a whole have made a lot of progress over the past two years and each year I roll out new special activities and events for my honors students. Still, a major challenges is getting the word out and building our reputation. Anyone who takes a close look at what we're doing can see we're growing something special but we still have to convince students and parents who may not even realize that Hunter offers a CS degree to come to us instead of going to more well known albeit much more expensive programs.
To that end I try to visit as many high schools as I can during the Fall semester to speak to high school seniors.
I spent last Friday at Packer Collegiate.
I was invited by my friend Saber Khan who runs the weekly twitter #EthicalCS chat among other things.
When I first started doing school visits I had a tough time figuring out exactly what to say - I'm no salesman - I'm not good at it and I don't like doing it. Fortunately, I didn't have to be a salesman. I decided I'd talk to the students about questions they should be asking themselves as they consider where to go after graduation. I talk about school location, community, and culture. I also talk about majors - BA vs BS, Major vs Minor, niche majors, and possible career paths. I also talk about tech sectors - how NY might be different from Sill icon Valley might be different from Seattle or Boston.
I also tell them the truth about the undergraduate experience - how you can get a great CS background at all sorts of schools. How Algorithms is Algorithms and no matter where you go you'll probably use the same text and how while I have many former students at the Googles and Facebooks of the world that have gone to MIT and CMU I also have plenty who end up at those companies or similar going to Stony, Oberlin, Tufts, and yes, Hunter.
At the end of the talk I spend a few minutes talking about Hunter and my honors program but it's only a small part of the talk. I figure in any given class there will be a few kids who could be a fit for my program and I want the time spent to be worthwhile for the entire class.
Sometimes guidance people sit in when I talk to the students and almost always they tell me how valuable it was for the students to have someone like me come in and talk frankly about the college application and acceptance process.
It's going to take time to build our reputation at Hunter but I think that going around to students and talking honestly about college and not giving the hard sell helps build trust and our reputation and over time, people will realize the value we're bringing to the table and come to us. It's already happening.
Now, the only other challenge is to get more high schools to bring me in. Next week I'm visiting NEST+M and Brooklyn Tech and I've got a few more on the calendar in upcoming weeks but would love to get to a bunch more.
So, if you're at a NY area High School and you think there's a fit - hit me up - I'd love to visit and meet and talk with your kids.