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Omoju Miller Reflects on her PhD Journey: 15+ Years Of Learning Computational Intelligence

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Update: Omoju Miller speaks at Etsy’s speaker series, Code as Craft on Feb. 16, 2017 with title: What Makes a Coder? Her talk was written up in the Observer as: Berkeley PhD’s 4-Step Plan to a STEM Pipeline That Works for Everyone.

Dr. Omoju Miller filed her dissertation in December 2015: “HipHopathy, A Socio-Curricular Study of Introductory Computer Science”.

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Omoju was hooded at the SESAME commencement on May 19, 2016. Shepublished an incredible reflective essay of her journey: 15+ Years Of Learning Computational Intelligence.

Excerpts:

I googled “computer science education”, I googled “cognitive science” and SESAME program at Berkeley came up. I saw Alice Agogino’s name, read her bio and decided that was the woman I wanted to learn with. I sent her an email, 15 minutes later she replied, I set up an appointment and two weeks later I was sitting in her office.

Berkeley is the place where the “secret” dreams that I dreamt started coming true. For the first time in my professional life, I was part of a team that was led by a woman — Alice Agogino. For the first time, I also got to work with another black person professionally — Ryan Shelby. I got to intern in a company founded by a black man — Gene Wade, UNow. There were many great first. I got to go to the White House, I got to host my own TEDx conference. I became a thought leader in my field. I was encouraged to inject my voice in my research — I am forever grateful to Bernard Gifford who scolded and molded my research trajectory.

Through my work in inclusion, I was invited to join roundtables that the White House was holding around diversifying its applicant pool for the presidential innovation fellows. I would later serve as a volunteer advisor to that program. This put me on the national stage. Because of that I got invited to attend a White House hackathon on data and education. My team won, and we went back to the White House to present our winning idea, #ThisISGrit. Eventually all this work got me on the radar of Google, and I went to serve there as CSEd subject matter for Google.org.

I came to Berkeley at a time in my life when I was looking for hope. Berkeley gave that to me. My time at Berkeley exposed me to people who were crafting fields, serving in presidential administrations, folks that dared to believe in inventing the future. In time I came to see my reflection in them. It was at Berkeley where I put the pieces of my life back together and discovered that I too could dare to dream, that I too could invent our future.

 

Featured image caption (top of page): Omoju at the White House after presenting #ThisIsGrit. 2013.