Student receives GSI Award for innovative work as educator, promoting diversity

Burdick has done extensive work as an instructor in EECS courses and promoter of diversity in the department.

Laura Burdick Enlarge
Laura Burdick

CSE PhD student Laura Burdick received a 2019 Rackham Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award for her extensive work as an instructor in EECS courses and promoter of diversity in the department.

Burdick was the main instructor for EECS 198: Discover Computer Science, a new class introduced in Fall 2018 with the goal of increasing the diversity of students in CS. Students in the class worked with Burdick and Mihalcea to see how computers connect to real-world applications in many disciplines. The class teaches core computer science concepts, code writing basics, and gives hands-on experience in several computer science areas. It is open to any student with no formal programming experience, and is particularly designed for incoming first-year women.

Burdick designed the class from beginning to end, nearly single-handedly turning the idea into a successful class with 22 women students who have become increasingly interested in the field of CS.

Aside from the programming lectures in EECS 198, says Burdick, “we tried to provide a great CS experience to the students, by organizing a visit to the local Google branch, inviting women computer scientists to join the class and speak about their experiences, and overall by generously sharing all our experience and excitement about the field with the students in the class.”

The course was recognized for its potential to enhance the quality of student learning at U-M with a grant from the CRLT Gilbert Whitaker Fund.

In addition to EECS 198, Burdick also has experience with a variety of EECS courses, beginning with her role as a GSI in EECS 281: Data Structures and Algorithms. During her time as co-instructor (with Prof. Rada Mihalcea and PhD student Steve Wilson) for EECS 498/595, SI 561: Natural Language Processing, the class was ranked in the top 25% of the best classes by students in SI who enrolled in the class.

Outside of her experience in classes, Burdick has put effort into growing her skills as an educator. She completed the Rackham-CRLT Graduate Teaching Certificate, and regularly participates in CRLT programs. Recently, she co-facilitated multiple CRLT-Engin seminars, as well as facilitated practice teaching sessions during university-wide GSI training.

“Through all of this, I am particularly dedicated to working towards increasing the number of women and other underrepresented minorities in the field of computing,” Burdick says. With Mihalcea, she co-directs the Girls Encoded initiative, a CSE organization that promotes the recruitment and retention of women in computer science. Through the organization, she has organized women in computing panels and lectures, middle school outreach activities, a high school coding camp, and helped to produce an opera celebrating the life of Ada Lovelace and the many contributions of women in computer science.

Recently, Burdick was co-PI on a Google grant to develop a workshop that gives undergraduate women in computer science valuable hands-on research experience. The project, “Building a Diverse Research Community: Introducing Women to Computer Science Research,” earned the maximum award of $35,000 from Google’s exploreCSR: Google Grant Pilot Program for Undergraduate Computer Science Research Focused Workshops for Women.