Introducing Dr. Stephanie Valentine
We sat down with new Raikes School Assistant Professor of Practice, Dr. Stephanie Valentine, to get to know more about her and her experiences with the Raikes School so far.
Interviewer: We welcome the new Raikes School Assistant Professor of Practice & Assistant Director for Academics, Dr. Stephanie Valentine.
The students call you “Val,” right? Well, Val, tell us a bit about yourself:
Val: First, thanks for your kind welcome! Everyone at the Raikes School has been incredibly welcoming to me in the past few months.
About myself --- I was born and raised in Nebraska but have lived in other parts of the country for the last 10 years. I’m super excited to be back home again. I love the seasons and all the fall colors that are making Nebraska beautiful right now. I am a computer scientist by training, with my dissertation work focusing on human-computer interaction and social networking analysis (particularly for children’s social networks). I am very passionate about using my skills as a computer scientist to do social good.
When I was in graduate school, I met another computer scientist named Andrew Giese who has bounding enthusiasm, an infectious smile, and an exceptionally high reputation on Stack Overflow. He and I got married earlier this year. We have a dog named Pixel, who is a 40-mile-an-hour couch potato --- she loves sprinting and snuggling and not much else. In my free time, I love making beautiful things (and/or making things beautiful) through graphic design, origami, sewing, painting, and dancing (okay, the dancing might not be so beautiful, but it is certainly fun!).
Interviewer: How exactly does a person “use her skills as a computer scientist to do social good”?
Val: I think it’s definitely a personal journey. A person needs to find a cause that they’re passionate about and start dreaming up technological solutions. The cause that I’m passionate about is preventing cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is an epidemic behavior that has impacted my own life, and either impacted or prematurely ended far too many of the lives around me. I wearied of everyone saying, “This is terrible! Someone should do something about this!” and then never actually doing anything about it. If they weren’t going to do anything, I would. I designed, developed, and deployed a social network called KidGab that provides a safe space for children to learn and practice the basics of digital citizenship in an engaging but monitored environment. So far, more than 500 Girl Scouts have joined KidGab. In 2014, I founded a 501(c)(3) non-profit aimed at cyberbullying prevention, called Wired Youth, Inc., and have been educating children and their families about healthy digital friendships ever since. So, I suppose, it takes more than being passionate about a cause and doing a little daydreaming. You need to stand up and actually do something about it. Code something. Design something. Share something. *DO* something.
Interviewer: Most people can’t understand the spirit of the Raikes School if they’ve never experienced it. How would you describe it?
Val: It certainly is difficult to explain, but I’ll do my best! The students and staff of the Raikes School exude passion, they exhale energy. Every day, every minute they are either achieving or planning to achieve something new. The passion and the energy of the Raikes School is too much to be contained in bodies or in voices or in laughter. It electrifies the air. Those who breathe it are inspired to do just a little more to be great at what they do. Just a little more. And then a little more. And after a little while, everyone is exceptional at something and their journeys are exceptionally interesting.
I guess I got a little poetic, there, but normal prose just doesn’t do the Raikes School justice.
Interviewer: Is there anything else you want to share?
Val: I want to give a shout-out to the amazing staff of the Raikes School --- both the old guard and the new. There are so many of us that are new to the Raikes School. Mark Antonson, Julie Catalina, Bhuvana Gopal, Julie Perez, Connor Wilburn, and I joined the Raikes School in 2017. Steve Cooper, Anna Pressler, Kylie Penner, and Christy Thomas joined about two years ago. David Keck and Jeremy Suing have been with the School for many years and are teaching us newbies the Raikes School ropes. So, many of us are new, but the dream team has assembled and we’re ready to do everything we can to inspire and enable student success. We’re ready to rock!
Interviewer: Thanks for chatting with us, Val!
Val: No, thank you! It was an honor!