A UNLV professor who has spent a decade creating technologies that make it easier for people, especially those with visual impairment or other disabilities, to use computer software or invent their own will be recognized as a "White House Champion of Change for Computer Science Education." Andreas "Andy" Stefik, an assistant professor of computer science in UNLV's College of Engineering, is among nine recipients who will be honored at a Jan. 26 event in Washington, D.C.
Stefik is the inventor of Quorum, the first evidence-oriented programming language. The design of Quorum is based on rigorous empirical data from experiments on human behavior. With grants from the National Science Foundation, Stefik also established the first national educational infrastructure for blind or visually impaired students to learn computer science — a model being used in nearly 20 states and overseas, including in Clark County and the United Kingdom.
Stefik will visit the White House next week for a ceremony honoring individuals who were selected for their leadership and innovation in expanding access to computer science education and for inspiring the next generation to use 21st century tools to better their communities. The White House considers access to computer science education a critical step for ensuring that the United States remains competitive in the global economy and strengthens its cybersecurity.
"It's definitely humbling," Stefik, 37, said of the surprise phone calls that he'd been anonymously nominated and subsequently earned a top spot. "There are people all over the country doing amazing work in computer science education right now. I'm honored to be recognized alongside just a few of them."
The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. The Champions of Change selection committee has paid tribute to more than 1,000 awardees over the last five or so years with monthly awards in areas highlighting the president's initiatives, including LGBT, refugee and Affordable Care Act issues, organizers said. A year ago, President Barack Obama became the first president to write a line of code, and in his State of the Union address, he issued a broad call to action to expand computer science across the nation’s K-12 classrooms.
The award ceremony will feature remarks by senior advisor to the president Valerie Jarrett, acting secretary for the United States Department of Education John King, chief U.S. technology officer Megan Smith, actress and director Gillian Jacobs, and co-founder and executive director of Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls Meredith Walker.
The event will be live streamed on the White House website at 1 p.m. ET on Jan. 26. Learn more about the White House Champions of Change program here. Follow the conversation on social media at #WHChamps.