Inclusion Inspires Innovation
Despite loving language and majoring in English as an undergraduate in Calcutta, India, Sarbani Banerjee, professor of computer information system (CIS), also minored in mathematics at her father’s insistence.
“My father always encouraged math skills and believed further study would improve my scores on the high-level India administrative service exam,” said Banerjee, who joined Buffalo State in 2000.
Banerjee is grateful for her father’s influence. She scored well on the exam and made the decision to pursue her doctorate in education at the University at Buffalo. It was there that she discovered computer science.
She is passionate about the field and is working to reverse the growing disparity between men and women working in the profession. Her outreach to and inclusion of women and minorities in a field historically populated by men is heartfelt and extraordinary.
“It’s so important to have diversity in technology,” she said. “Inclusion inspires innovation.”
Promoting Women and Minorities in STEM
She has long been a supporter of undergraduate research and has successfully applied for funding through the college’s Undergraduate Research Office to encourage students to tackle more involved and challenging research projects. She does a consistently excellent job mentoring and preparing students for their presentations on topics that are wide-ranging, relevant, and interesting. In 2016, Banerjee received the President’s Award for Excellence as an Undergraduate Research Mentor.
Active in the local chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association, she has taken a special interest in encouraging women and minorities to consider coursework and careers in all STEM fields. She won a statewide SUNY grant to establish an academic course and speaker series focused on promoting women and minorities in computer science and engineering.
“If you teach women computing, you are teaching the whole community,” she said. “As women, we tend to share what we have learned.”
“It’s so important to have diversity in technology. Inclusion inspires innovation.”
Building Community Connections
Additionally, Banerjee and her CIS colleagues offer free workshops to Western New York math and science teachers through the Google-funded Computer Science for High School (CS4HS), encouraging them to incorporate computational concepts in fun and relevant ways into the classroom. They also host CS4HS showcases for middle- and high school-students to participate in a campus competition each summer, with the hope that they will see what Buffalo State and the field of computer science has to offer.
“This is a ripe opportunity for women to choose this field of study,” Banerjee said. “There are myriad career opportunities awaiting them with the right education and training.”