IOScholarships is the first of its kind scholarship and financial education platform for minority and underrepresented STEM students. The technology has been designed with a streamlined user-friendly interface that offers great functionality to help high school, undergraduate and graduate students find scholarships and internship opportunities. IOScholarships proprietary matching algorithm can match students with life-changing scholarships where their diverse background is valued.
“Now is the time for students to apply for college scholarships,” said María Fernanda Trochimezuk, Founder of IOScholarships. “While there are many scholarships that have qualifications like a minimum 3.5 GPA, there are just as many that have lower GPA requirements or don’t even take GPA into consideration at all.”
GPA is an important factor for getting scholarships but is not the only thing that’s important. Schools are looking for dedicated students, who contribute to their community or are involved in STEM organizations or activities. They want to see leadership and perseverance, and while these can sort of be reflected in a GPA, they mostly shine through in extracurriculars.
The majority of the scholarships featured on IOScholarships come directly from corporations and organizations, rather than solely from competitive university pools – thereby maximizing the number of opportunities students have to earn funding for their education. There’s plenty of money that goes unused every year, students just have to search for it.
Each month IO Scholarships adds hundreds of new curated scholarships to its database and posts “The Scholarship of the Week” on its Instagram social media accounts(@IOScholarships), making it easy to find new scholarship opportunities.
In addition to providing scholarships, the IOScholarships platform features a scholarship organizer, news articles designed to provide guidance on how to apply for scholarships, and money saving tips. The platform also offers a Career Aptitude Quiz designed to help students identify the degrees and professions that best fit their skills.
Several states, including Arizona, Oregon and Virginia, have recently passed bills that allow students to miss school to take care of their mental health, efforts that were often supported or led by students.
Do you think all students should have the option to take a day off from school to rest, recalibrate and take a break from their regular routine? Does your state or school allow students to take mental health days when necessary?
In “Teens Are Advocating for Mental Health Days Off School,” Christina Caron writes:
By the time Ben Ballman reached his junior year in high school he was busier — and more anxious — than he had ever been.
“I had moments where it felt like the whole world was coming down on me,” he said. “It was definitely a really difficult time.”
Before the pandemic shut everything down, his day started at 6:30 a.m., when he woke up to get ready for school. Next came several Advanced Placement courses; then either soccer practice or his job at a plant nursery; studying for the SAT; and various extracurricular activities. He often didn’t start his homework until 11 p.m., and finally went to bed three hours later. Every day it was the same grueling schedule.
“It’s not even that I was going above and beyond, it was, ‘This is the bare minimum,’” said Ben, now 18 and a recent graduate of Winston Churchill High School in Montgomery County, Md. “It’s like a pressure cooker that’s locked down. There’s nowhere to escape. Eventually you just kind of burst at some point, or, hopefully, you can get through it.”
The article continues:
Faced with high stress levels among adolescents and a mental health crisis that includes worsening suicide rates, some states are now allowing students to declare a mental health day.
In the last two years alone, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Virginia have passed bills permitting children to be absent from school for mental or behavioral health reasons, efforts that were often aided or spearheaded by students.
And in March, Utah decided that a “valid excuse” for a student’s absence will now include “mental or behavioral health,” broadening an earlier definition that referred to mental illness. The legislator who sponsored the bill, Representative Mike Winder, a Republican, told the television station KUTV in February that it was his daughter, then a senior at Southern Utah University, who suggested the idea.
Late last year the advocacy group Mental Health America surveyed teenagers about the top three things that would be most helpful for their mental health. More than half of the respondents cited the ability to take a mental health break or absence from either school or work. And in a Harris Poll of more than 1,500 teenagers conducted in May of last year, 78 percent of those surveyed said schools should support mental health days to allow students to prioritize their health.
Ben, the recent graduate, said that as a high school student he had spoken with classmates who were struggling and needed support but didn’t know where to turn. So he organized a coalition of students to improve mental health services for students in his state. This year he spent months supporting a mental health day bill in Maryland, but it stalled in the State Senate.
The article also shares some reasons that mental health days may not become a reality at more schools, at least for now:
In the New York City school system, which has more than 1 million students, a day off for mental or behavioral health reasons “would be treated like any other sick day,” Nathaniel Styer, a New York City Department of Education spokesman, said.
The phrase “mental health day” might make some kids and parents uncomfortable. With that in mind, the school board in Montgomery County, Md., decided that it will excuse absences taken for “student illness and well-being,” starting in the new school year.
“We didn’t want to call it a mental health day, because we know there is still stigma around that,” Karla Silvestre, the school board vice president, told Education Week in June.
Schools are also experimenting with other methods beyond mental health days to help students cope with their daily stressors. The Jordan School District in South Jordan, Utah, is using “wellness rooms,” where students can decompress for 10 minutes if they are feeling overwhelmed. And some schools in Colorado have created “oasis rooms,” a student lounge staffed with peer counselors and other resources.
National Scholarship Month, sponsored by the National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA), is a national campaign designed to raise awareness of the vital role scholarships play in reducing student loan debt and expanding access to higher education.
To celebrate, the National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA) has announced the launch of the NSPA Exchange – the first and only scholarship metric database.
Thanks to a partnership with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the NSPA Exchange was created to serve as a central access point for scholarship provider data. Currently, the database is home to metrics from over 1,300 organizations, allowing members to search details about peer providers by location, compare scholarship award amounts, eligibility criteria, program staff size, and more. All information is kept in a secure, cloud-based, centralized database maintained through a custom administration system.
“Our goal for the NSPA Exchange is to ultimately define best practices and industry standards for scholarship providers.” says Nicolette del Muro, Senior Director, Membership and Strategic Initiatives at NSPA.
“With this database, members now have the data they need to make strategic decisions. For example, of the over 15,000 scholarships in the Exchange database, the average application is open for 90 days. And 75% of these scholarships open in the months of November, December, and January. This offers applicants a relatively short window of time to apply for all scholarships. Insight like this could help a provider determine to open their application outside of the busy season or encourage them to make their scholarship criteria and requirements available online in advance of the application open date.”
“The NSPA Exchange is a great resource for IOScholarships as the information is constantly updated and enables members to review and update their own organization’s scholarship data”, said María Fernanda Trochimezuk, Founder of IOScholarships and Individual Affiliate Member at NSPA. “IOScholarships also uses scholarships from the Exchange in our own Scholarship Search, and we trust these scholarships are safe for students, vetted, and current offerings.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL SCHOLARSHIP PROVIDERS ASSOCIATION (NSPA)
The mission of the National Scholarship Providers Association is to advance the collective impact of scholarship providers and the scholarships they award. Currently serving over 2,000 individuals, they are dedicated to supporting the needs of professionals administering scholarships in colleges and universities, non-profit, foundations and businesses. Membership in the NSPA provides access to networking opportunities, professional development, and scholarship program resources.
By conducting a free scholarship search at IOScholarships.com, STEM minority and underrepresented students gain access to a database of thousands of STEM scholarships worth over $48 million. We then narrow this vast array of financial aid opportunities down to a manageable list of scholarships for which students actually qualify, based on the information they provide in their IOScholarships.com profile. They can then review their search results, mark their favorites, and sort their list by deadline, dollar amount and other criteria. We also offer a scholarship organizer which is completely free to use, just like our scholarship search. There are scholarships out there for diverse students in STEM. So take advantage of National Scholarship Month and search for available scholarships today!
Since the PAEMST program’s inception in 1983, more than 5,200 awardees have been selected for this honor. These educators have taught in classrooms across the country – from one-room schoolhouses in rural Montana, to large school systems in the heart of New York City. While their teaching experiences may vastly differ, PAEMST awardees do have one thing in common: they have both a deep content knowledge of the subjects they teach and the ability to motivate and enable students to be successful in those areas. Collectively, they reflect the expertise and dedication of the nation’s teaching corps, and they demonstrate the positive impact of excellent teachers on student achievement.
Who can apply?
Full-time STEM teachers at the 7–12th grade level with at least 5 years of experience. Elementary school teachers (K–6th grades) will be eligible to apply during a future cycle.
Who can nominate?
Anyone—principals, teachers, parents, students, or members of the general public—may nominate exceptional STEM teachers. Teachers may also self-nominate.
Recipients receive a certificate signed by the President; a paid trip to D.C. to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities; a $10,000 award; and join a cohort of over 5,200 award-winning teachers. Watch the video below for a recap of our most recent Recognition Event.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990 and has made workplaces much more accommodating to disability workers in America. As of June 2022, 38.1 percent of persons aged 16–64 with a disability is in the American workforce.
Many workers have disabilities that may or may not be visible. Either way, those people have needs that every workplace must address. Making a safe and accessible workplace isn’t as easy as adding a few ramps and lifts. There are many measures that a person can take to ensure their workplace exceeds safety standards for disability workers.
The most important thing to ensure workplace safety is to listen to the workers. Disabled workers deserve to have their voices heard just as much as anyone. No one understands what a person needs better than themselves. Listening to the people affected by these measures is the most effective solution. It is not enough to simply make a series of measures and leave it at that. All safety practices must be subject to alteration and addition as necessary. Receptiveness to disability workers’ needs will go a long way toward making a safer workplace. Ensure that all employees know that they can bring suggestions forward.
Create Specific Emergency Plans
One of the best ways to manage workplace safety is to have a clear and specific emergency plan. Although every building requires a plan of action for fires or other emergencies, these plans often do not account for those with disabilities. It is too easy for someone to be left behind in widespread panic. Create an emergency plan that everyone knows and can follow. A clear plan will reduce panic and make the workplace response much smoother. Talk to your disability workers about the safety measures they require in an emergency.
For example, someone may benefit from designated rescue assistants. Others may require immediate and easy access to assistive technologies. Mobility devices should be accessible to all employees without hassle in case of such an event. Modify and add emergency response plans based on the needs of your workplace and workers. No matter the case, a clear action plan will reduce risk factors for disability workers. Most importantly, work with the workers themselves to design a plan that works for them. Not all safety measures are universal. Personalize them for the workplace and those in it.
Educate Other Employees on Specific Needs
Workplace safety measures work best when everyone is on the same page. For this reason, all relevant parties must know of a worker’s specific needs. Of course, the only information that your disability workers are willing to disclose should be provided, and only to those concerned by the plan. Disability workers have a right to confidentiality that must be respected at all times under the ADA. If a worker wants to disclose their disability status to the workplace or include coworkers in their emergency plans, educate those other workers. Allow the worker in question to outline their boundaries and needs. Make it clear that others in the workplace will abide by their needs and reinforce said position whenever necessary.
Supporting disability workers in their ability to self-advocate and create measures for themselves will contribute heavily to any safety practices.
Utilize Assistive Technology
Many disability workers will already possess some form of assistive technology as they require. Assistive technology is any tool that aids in a person’s ability to engage in everyday life. You can never be too careful when it comes to workplace safety. Backup aids stored in the workplace can provide peace of mind and specific response plans.
For example, consider having wheelchairs and other mobility aids stored in an accessible area. Utilize optional screen readers if computers play a large part in the workplace or supply noise-canceling headphones if loud sounds are a concern. There are many ways to include assistive technology in the workplace. While some common tools are helpful for any workplace such as wireless panic buttons, all should strive to support the specific needs of those who work there. Offer to store backup glasses, medications, or other technology in a safe and secure place on site. This may ease disability workers’ worries and create a much safer environment.
Ensure All Areas of the Workplace Are Accessible
A big part of workplace safety is accessibility. The ADA outlines standards for public buildings and areas, but these accessibility tasks are the bare minimum, not the extent. For example, a workplace may have a ramp that allows wheelchair access to the building, but what about access to rooms and hallways? What about tools and resources that a person with a disability may have trouble accessing without risk?
Workplaces should strive to improve accommodations at all times. Comfort is not the only reason to adjust workplace layouts and paths. Accidents are much less common in workplaces created with accessibility in mind. Outlined below are some common measures that will improve safety.
One method is to make all walkways wide enough for mobility aids. Non-accessible areas are a significant risk. Reduce the number of them wherever possible to reduce the number of accidents that occur. Accessible routes also provide more options for disability workers in an emergency.
Keep commonly-used supplies near the areas of intended use. Workers with disabilities that impair movement will benefit from this simple matter of convenience. More importantly, these items should also be kept in a place that anyone can access without help. Avoid heavy impediments, high shelves, and other inconveniences whenever possible.
Refer to ADA standards for accommodations required in public spaces. As mentioned before, use these standards as a guide, not the result. An accessible workplace is always a safer one.
Bloomberg Engineering’s culture champions innovation. This is made possible by the different perspectives of our 6,000+ software engineers around the globe, who come from diverse backgrounds and geographies and who possess a variety of technology specialties.
Meet four of Bloomberg’s software engineers – all of whom are active members of the Bloomberg Black in Tech Community across our New York, San Francisco and London engineering teams – and see how they’ve been empowered to impact our business globally.
Our conversations with them cover their paths to and work at Bloomberg, how they’ve grown professionally, their impact in technology, the importance of an inclusive workplace, and their efforts to attract more diversity to tech. Interviews were edited for length and clarity.
TITLE: Software Engineer BLOOMBERG OFFICE: New York
How did you get to Bloomberg? What do you work on now? I lived abroad for 5 years, during which time I taught English in South Korea for 3½ years. I then served in the U.S. Navy for 4 years, after which I felt the urge to embrace my technical talents. This career change turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.
While finishing my MBA, I decided to apply to the Grace Hopper Program at Fullstack Academy, one of the country’s top-ranked coding bootcamps. This decision was the beginning of my path to Bloomberg, which I was drawn to for its philanthropic programs, the eclectic and dynamic nature of the Bloomberg Terminal, and the opportunity to be immersed in a culture of strong, talented software engineers.
I’m currently in the training program for new engineers. Prior to starting my training, I had the privilege of pre-training on the Commodities team, where I worked on building a map UI in React and Node.js and integrating it with a remote procedure call framework. I really enjoyed the learning process in discovering how to merge open source technologies with proprietary technologies.
Did you have any mentors or influential managers to guide your career along the way? One of my mentors is Erik Anderson, the software engineer who helped created MAPS<GO> and many of Bloomberg’s chart functions. Erik has helped me a great deal in building my confidence to tackle things outside my comfort zone. He really has helped me see that I was capable of more than I thought and encouraged me along the way, which really made me more driven to put in the long hours of practice and study that it takes to get to Bloomberg.
What do you love most about working in tech? I really enjoy the way it has evolved over the years and how it continues to change so rapidly. Working in technology forces me to continue learning and embrace my status as a ‘forever’ student. The moment we get too comfortable in this industry is the moment we are in danger of falling behind. There are so many advances and new technologies that, even after just one year, the older versions are quickly out-of-date. What I love most is that it is an industry that never gets too comfortable; it is about constantly improving the product and making applications faster and more efficient. The associated mental challenges and continuous learning excite me the most!
What are some of the unique challenges that people of color face getting into tech / within the tech industry? Entering a male-dominated industry doesn’t come without trepidation. Knowing that people come equipped with certain biases that they themselves may not even be aware of plays a role; it is just the way we have all been socially-programmed by the media, our parents, and our communities. The tech industry is challenging by itself and people of color may have to face a few additional challenges, dealing with variations of micro-inequities, and the burden of not contributing to certain stereotypes. However, what I enjoy the most are the raised awareness and open discussions seeking to address these imbalances. It really shows how we, as a human species, are evolving our consciousness around these issues.
In your opinion, why are diversity and inclusion important? How do you personally promote diversity and inclusion with your teams and/or in the community? Diversity and inclusion are crucial to the strength of any great organization. In order for technology to serve a wider range of users, understanding their needs and wants is very important. With the advent of globalization, this type of understanding can only be reached by increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
I also enjoy sharing my experiences traveling and living abroad with my co-workers. It highlights the importance of travel as a way to break down barriers in understanding different cultures, which I believe is a pivotal step towards this objective. I am also a member of many different communities here at Bloomberg, so as not to limit the definition of myself to one particular ethnicity or background, but to expand my sense of self in order to represent the many different cultural experiences I’ve had and those I’ve adopted along the way.
TITLE: Senior Software Engineer BLOOMBERG OFFICE: New York
How did you get to Bloomberg? I was an industry hire out of a Bloomberg recruiting event in Seattle, where I met the engineers who would eventually be my managers. They were great and provided an amazing vision of the technical challenges and company culture at Bloomberg.
What do you work on now? I am presently working on designing and building out the underlying platform that supports Bloomberg’s Asset Investment Management (AIM) compliance workflows.
Did you have any mentors to guide your career along the way? Most definitely! I was fortunate to have an awesome mentor when I first started at Bloomberg. He was one of those engineers whose code nuances and expressiveness are like revelations. I learned a lot about my team and Bloomberg’s culture just by contributing to his code. I was also fortunate to have supportive managers who accommodated my desire to be challenged. They were able to provide interesting, tangible and business-critical projects to broaden my scope and contributions.
What do you love most about working in tech? It has been said that engineers are the gatekeepers for civilization. Being in tech is like a calling. The work one does has a direct impact on the well-being of others. It gets more interesting when your work pushes the boundaries of what is considered possible. When this happens, there is no greater feeling than creating something new. Then you realize that, in some small way, you’ve (hopefully) helped make the world just a bit better than before.
Are there any particular technologies that interest you? Machine learning, especially around the areas of natural language processing and understanding. The best technologies are those that feel so completely natural and intuitive that you may forget that you are interacting with a machine. Ironically, it is extremely difficult to create such a system. Applications of ML have the powerful potential to change the way we all interact with technology, if not the very nature of the machines we use.
What are some of the unique challenges that people of color face getting into tech / within the tech industry? There are very few of us in the tech industry. This truism begs us to ask why, as demographics don’t support this reality, as 10% of all college graduates and computer science majors are people of color. It’s sometimes hard not to feel excluded when there are very few people who look like you in the places that you are or want to be. There is often a significant effort required to go from ‘person of color,’ to ‘person,’ to ‘extremely capable person’ in the minds of others that people of other backgrounds do not face.
In your opinion, why are diversity and inclusion important? Antifragility is a term coined by bestselling author Nassim Nicholas Taleb that describes systems that thrive in the face of volatility, shock or adversity. It represents the next step beyond robustness and resilience. I believe that, by their very nature, antifragile systems are diverse. Events that could take down a monoculture are often integrated and used for the greater good by an antifragile system. Diversity and inclusion promote antifragility by fostering teams that are tolerant, supportive, engaging and dynamic.
How do you personally promote diversity and inclusion with your teams and/or in the community? I am one of the co-founders of the Bloomberg Black In Tech (BBIT) Community, which is composed of individuals in technology roles across Bloomberg – in engineering, product management, data science, etc. BBIT’s singular goal is to make Bloomberg the best place for minorities in tech across the industry. We host regular events to foster professional and personal development and create a fun, safe space. We work very hard to engage, support and empower the community at large through mentoring, recruiting, and outreach events on college campuses and at tech conferences with significant minority representation.
TITLE: BQuant Specialist, Desktop Build Group BLOOMBERG OFFICE: San Francisco
How did you get to Bloomberg? What do you work on now? I spent the first five years of my career at leading French banks where, among other things, I designed and implemented technology to automate processes on trading floors. Bloomberg found me on LinkedIn and recruited me to our London office in 2013. I’ve now worked in our San Francisco office for five years.
I’m currently a BQuant Specialist in our Desktop Build Group. In this role, I educate our clients’ quantitative financial researchers, analysts, and data scientists to leverage BQuant, our interactive data analysis and quantitative research platform and new Bloomberg Query Language (BQL). To do this, I first have to understand our clients’ workflows and determine how and where our quant research solutions can help them derive value. Often, we can help clients reduce the amount of time and manual labor spent reviewing financial statements. We can incorporate probability and statistics that help clients make faster and more accurate decisions on their financial strategies. Many times, I create the specifications, design a custom application for a team of about 20-50 users, test the app, and implement it at the client site. Finally, I help train users to program in Python in order to leverage BQuant.
Did you have any mentors or influential managers to guide your career along the way? It has been challenging finding a Black professional mentor. David Mitchell, a team leader for our market specialists, has been a huge inspiration for me. We both started our careers in finance and moved to tech, so I feel like we have much in common. I appreciate how he reaches out periodically to check in on me. I admire his leadership of Bloomberg’s Black Professional Community and am really impressed by his career trajectory and the network he has built. It’s really important to see a person of color in a senior position because it makes that rank seem attainable for the rest of us.
Sandra Lee, who works in Bloomberg’s Product Oversight Office, has also been an influential mentor since we first met in 2016. She’s been with Bloomberg for more than 20 years, and she has helped me understand Bloomberg’s culture and navigate internal networks. I often use her as a sounding board to help me articulate my vision and get a second opinion. On a personal level, she shows me the value of work-life balance.
What do you love most about working in tech? I love being in a position where I’m learning something. Technology is perpetually evolving, and you always need to be on your toes to remain competitive. I will often think about a complex engineering challenge that I am trying to solve, and will have a candid conversation with a colleague or I will read an article, and then a solution will emerge. I then implement it and it is so satisfying when it works. I also like that tech has tangible results.
Are there any particular technologies that interest you? I am really excited about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). I love the idea that technology can show us patterns that humans cannot otherwise see because we cannot scrape through large volumes of data as quickly. From there, we can extract specific insights that influence our decision-making.
My interest in AI and ML led me to complete a graduate-level certificate program at the University of San Francisco. While I’m not using these skills in my current role, I’m excited that Bloomberg is doing cutting-edge work in natural language processing and other areas related to ML and AI. I’ve also joined Bloomberg’s Machine Learning Guild so I can stay connected to this technology; otherwise, it is hard to stay on top of it when you don’t apply it on a daily basis.
What are some of the unique challenges that people of color face getting into tech / within the tech industry? One word: R-E-P-R-E-S-E-N-T-A-T-I-O-N! We need to see peers and leaders who are people of color. When I don’t see people of color in leadership positions, I feel like it’s less possible to attain success. When I see Black leaders, I get a lot of motivation and affirmation that it could be me one day.
In my experience, people of color aren’t taken as seriously by their peers unless there are other people of color in leadership positions. I personally feel like I need to be better than anyone else in whatever I’m doing. I don’t want to give any opening for the quality of my work to be questioned. For that reason, I often spend extra time double-checking my work in order to make everything is perfect. No one asks me to do this, but I feel I must. This adds a dimension of extra stress because that workflow is not scalable or sustainable and can lead to burnout.
In your opinion, why are diversity and inclusion important? How do you personally promote diversity and inclusion with your teams and/or in the community? Life is so much more fulfilling when you can interact with people from different backgrounds and ways of life. At work, a diverse team can help prevent tunnel vision when solving challenges or meeting client needs. Everyone comes with baggage and biases that sometimes makes communication uncomfortable, but this ultimately leads to rich learning experiences.
I’m always trying to recruit and advocate for more underrepresented minority candidates, because we are only likely to stay at Bloomberg if we continue seeing more diversity on our teams.
Jonathan “JC” Charlery
TITLE: Senior Software Engineer BLOOMBERG OFFICE: London
How did you get to Bloomberg? I was on my way to interview with a different company during the career fair at Howard University, when I ran into Kerry Joseph, an engineer who was recruiting for Bloomberg. We got to chatting about the company and he invited me to an info session later that night. What struck me was how down-to-earth and genuine he was. He wasn’t trying to sell me anything; he just talked about his own experiences at the company and how the job allowed him to grow.
In talking about his own background, we discovered we were from neighbouring islands in the Caribbean so we shared a cultural background. Having that conversation, and seeing and hearing someone like me at Bloomberg who had such a positive experience is what really sold me on the company.
What do you work on now? I’m on the Local Development team in London, which is part of our Developer Experience (DevX) group. Our team creates and supports the tools and workflows that allow engineers to develop and test their applications locally on their laptops using whatever tools they prefer, instead of relying on a limited shared environment.
Did you have any mentors or influential managers to guide your career along the way? Zac Rider, who leads our Real-time Distribution Platform engineering team, and Becky Plummer, a software engineering team leader in DevX (and my current manager) are two of the most influential managers I’ve had during my tenure at Bloomberg. They’ve provided me with many opportunities for growth and helped me build up my confidence in my own abilities. They were instrumental in putting my career on its current trajectory.
Femi Popoola, a technical team lead in London, has also been an amazing mentor to me. We’ve spoken about many different topics related to personal and technical growth, like knowing which opportunities are right for you and how to manage them, to understanding when you’re ready to take on a new challenge (hint: you’re never going to be “ready,” but don’t let that stop you).
What do you love most about working in tech? I love the rate at which everything changes in the tech industry, and the ease of being able to get involved.
The tech industry evolves so quickly that you’ll miss it if you blink. In the last 20 years or so, we’ve gone from having one dedicated phone line per family and maybe having a computer for the household to us all having a computer in our pockets and everyone having a phone. All the information this puts at our fingertips has made it much easier for anyone to become involved and even to transfer into tech-related fields from any profession.
Are there any particular technologies that interest you? Docker and container technologies are particularly interesting to me. The ability to simulate an entire environment and have repeatable declarative processes have really changed the way we think about development, testing, and stability of our systems.
What are some of the unique challenges that people of color face getting into tech / within the tech industry? Without seeing other people who look like them or can stand as a role model for them, people of colour tend to get discouraged from entering the tech industry. It is hard to continue being self-motivated or to believe you can achieve something if all the stereotypical icons don’t represent you in any way. It’s why Kerry stood out to me so much. He was West Indian and able to succeed in the tech industry. This isn’t spoken about often, but it creates a real psychological barrier for many people. Being able to connect with someone who shares your heritage or cultural background, and being able to see yourself in that person, are some of the greatest motivating factors.
In your opinion, why are diversity and inclusion important? Diversity and inclusion are very important as they provide different perspectives. Having someone who can see something in a different manner and who brings their own background and experiences can help elicit a new style of thinking and new direction when it is needed the most. When all options have seemingly been exhausted, something which may seem intrinsically basic to someone can actually be just what is needed to get things moving again.
How do you personally promote diversity and inclusion with your teams and/or in the community? I’ve spoken at events aimed at promoting and highlighting diversity and inclusion, as well as been a representative, speaker and mentor at both internal and external events aimed at empowering underprivileged youth to encourage them to pursue careers in STEM and grow their networks. This includes serving as a mentor to both university students and secondary school students.
I have been an advocate for and given advice about different ways to recruit effectively at select Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) across the U.S. I’ve also attended university career fairs where I directly engage with students, serving not only as a company point of contact for them, but also sharing my experiences with them. I talk to new hires about my career progression and serve as a mentor to help them navigate the company’s culture.
If you have a learning disability, your brain operates a bit differently. Learning disabilities occur “when someone has an impairment in learning or processing new information or skills,” Ami Baxi, MD, psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital, tells Health.
This can lead to difficulty with language, speech, reading, writing, or math.
Defining a learning disability is important—as is understanding what a learning disability isn’t.
A learning disability, or a learning disorder, is not associated with low intelligence or cognitive abilities, Sabrina Romanoff, clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University in New York City, tells Health. Nor is linked to a negative home or school environment, she adds. Instead, learning disabilities can be hereditary, or they may be brought on or exacerbated by psychological or physical trauma, environmental exposure (think: lead paint), or prenatal risks, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Learning disabilities are often diagnosed in childhood, but not always, Romanoff says. Sometimes the disability is mild and goes unnoticed by parents or teachers. Other times it’s mistaken for a lack of motivation or work ethic. In some cases it isn’t diagnosed because kids grow adept at adapting, compensating, and seeking out situations to suit their strengths, Romanoff says.
Without a diagnosis, Romanoff notes, people will lack “answers as to why they have difficulties in certain areas academically or in their daily lives as they pertain to their relationships or general functioning.” That’s unfortunate, since there are ways to overcome the differences in how people with learning disorders organize and manage information, she says.
Here’s a look at some of the most common learning disorders, some of which you’ve likely heard of and others that don’t get as much attention.
This learning disability “impairs reading and spelling ability,” Holly Schiff, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist in Connecticut with Jewish Family Services of Greenwich, tells Health. Estimates vary, but as many as 20% of people may have dyslexia, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, which notes that it’s the most common neurocognitive disorder.
People with dyslexia struggle to read “because they have problems identifying speech sounds and learning how these relate to letters and words (known as decoding),” Schiff says. As adults, people with dyslexia will tend to avoid reading-related activities, she says. “They may also have trouble understanding jokes or expressions like idioms—where they cannot derive the meaning from the specific words used.”
For people with dyscalculia, all sorts of math-related skills—number sense, memorizing arithmetic facts, and accurate calculations—are impaired, Romanoff says.
“Dyscalculia generally refers to problems acquiring basic math skills, but not to problems with reasoning,” Romanoff says.
Tasks that require working with numbers will take longer for people with this learning disorder, Dr. Baxi says. From calculating the tip to writing down someone’s digits, numbers and math-related tasks are ever-present in life, and adults with this disorder may see the impact in many areas of life.
A 2019 study estimates that between 3-7% of people have dyscalculia.
People with this writing disability have impaired writing ability and fine motor skills, Schiff says. They find it difficult to organize letters, numbers, or words on page or other defined space, she says.
Anything letter-related is a struggle for people with dysgraphia, Dr. Baxi says. Poor handwriting is common for people with this learning disorder, she notes.
“Dysgraphia in adults manifests as difficulties with syntax, grammar, comprehension, and being able to generally put one’s thoughts on paper,” Schiff says.
Other learning conditions to know
Some conditions are not classified as learning disorders or aren’t formally recognized in the DSM-V, the diagnostic guide used by mental health professionals. But they are still worth noting, since they may overlap or come up frequently for people with learning disorders.
Nonverbal learning disorders
With this kind of disorder, visual-spatial and visual-motor skills are affected, according to the Mayo Clinic. Nonverbal learning disorders (NLVD) can affect social skills and play out as a struggle to decode body language and understand humor, Schiff says.
“Non-verbal learning disabilities are not considered learning disabilities. They are often signs of other disorders,” Dr. Baxi notes. While NLVD isn’t officially recognized, this cluster of symptoms is “recognized by neuropsychologists and in educational settings when it presents itself,” Schiff says.
Click here to read the full article on Explore Health.
Cynthia DiBartolo’s journey to the New York Stock Exchange floor was fraught with challenges and difficulty.
In July 2021, DiBartolo’s firm, Tigress Financial Partners, became the first disabled and woman-owned floor broker to become a member of the NYSE.
Floor brokers are members of firms who execute trades on the exchange floor on behalf of the firm’s clients. They are physically present on the trading floor and are active during the New York Stock Exchange opening and closing auctions.
Tigress Financial Partners has been co-manager or selling group member on more than 620 IPO and secondary transactions with an aggregate market value of over $321 billion, including for companies such as Warner Music, Monday.com, and Airbnb.
In mid-2020, Wall Street banks, which are predominately run by white men, came under intense pressure to improve diversity following the Black Lives Matter protests.
Companies vowed to improve their practices via philanthropic programs, diverse hiring practices, and internships for underprivileged candidates. DiBartolo crafted a diversity questionnaire to make it easier for companies selling stock or issuing debt to find and vet minority and women-owned firms. American Airlines has already adopted the survey, and JPMorgan has begun to create a database to help automate the process.
Prior to launching Tigress Financial in 2011, DiBartolo served as a compliance director, an attorney, and as a risk management director for some of Wall Streets’ largest firms. However, her life would change in 2009 with a diagnosis of throat and neck cancer.
DiBartolo became severely disabled following life-saving surgery that compromised her ability to eat, speak and swallow. Through reconstructive surgery, DiBartolo was able to regain her ability to speak, but can only do so several hours a day.
Cancer not only took DiBartolo’s voice but also her career, as she recalled in an interview with CNBC’s Bob Pisani. “You see, there was no place for an attorney, risk management director, compliance director who couldn’t speak,” she said.
During her recovery, DiBartolo began to understand just how marginalized people in the disabled community were. “During the time I didn’t have the ability to speak, I realized how marginalized I was not just in financial services, but in society,” she said.
Inspiration from her father convinced her that she needed to act; “They took your tongue, not your brain.” her father told her. Using her experience from decades on Wall Street and tenacity DiBartolo launched the first and nation’s only disabled and woman-owned financial services firm.
Researchers from Germany have developed a method for identifying mental disorders based on facial expressions interpreted by computer vision.
The new approach can not only distinguish between unaffected and affected subjects, but can also correctly distinguish depression from schizophrenia, as well as the degree to which the patient is currently affected by the disease.
The researchers have provided a composite image that represents the control group for their tests (on the left in the image below) and the patients who are suffering from mental disorders (right). The identities of multiple people are blended in the representations, and neither image depicts a particular individual:
Individuals with affective disorders tend to have raised eyebrows, leaden gazes, swollen faces and hang-dog mouth expressions. To protect patient privacy, these composite images are the only ones made available in support of the new work.
Until now, facial affect recognition has been primarily used as a potential tool for basic diagnosis. The new approach, instead, offers a possible method to evaluate patient progress throughout treatment, or else (potentially, though the paper does not suggest it) in their own domestic environment for outpatient monitoring.
The paper states*:
‘Going beyond machine diagnosis of depression in affective computing, which has been developed in previous studies, we show that the measurable affective state estimated by means of computer vision contains far more information than the pure categorical classification.’
The researchers have dubbed this technique Opto Electronic Encephalography (OEG), a completely passive method of inferring mental state by facial image analysis instead of topical sensors or ray-based medical imaging technologies.
The authors conclude that OEG could potentially be not just a mere secondary aide to diagnosis and treatment, but, in the long term, a potential replacement for certain evaluative parts of the treatment pipeline, and one that could cut down on the time necessary for patient monitoring and initial diagnosis. They note:
‘Overall, the results predicted by the machine show better correlations compared to the pure clinical observer rating based questionnaires and are also objective. The relatively short measurement period of a few minutes for the computer vision approaches is also noteworthy, whereas hours are sometimes required for the clinical interviews.’
However, the authors are keen to emphasize that patient care in this field is a multi-modal pursuit, with many other indicators of patient state to be considered than just their facial expressions, and that it is too early to consider that such a system could entirely substitute traditional approaches to mental disorders. Nonetheless, they consider OEG a promising adjunct technology, particularly as a method to grade the effects of pharmaceutical treatment in a patient’s prescribed regime.
The paper is titled The Face of Affective Disorders, and comes from eight researchers across a broad range of institutions from the private and public medical research sector.
(The new paper deals mostly with the various theories and methods that are currently popular in patient diagnosis of mental disorders, with less attention than is usual to the actual technologies and processes used in the tests and various experiments)
Data-gathering took place at University Hospital at Aachen, with 100 gender-balanced patients and a control group of 50 non-affected people. The patients included 35 sufferers from schizophrenia and 65 people suffering from depression.
For the patient portion of the test group, initial measurements were taken at the time of first hospitalization, and the second prior to their discharge from hospital, spanning an average interval of 12 weeks. The control group participants were recruited arbitrarily from the local population, with their own induction and ‘discharge’ mirroring that of the actual patients.
In effect, the most important ‘ground truth’ for such an experiment must be diagnoses obtained by approved and standard methods, and this was the case for the OEG trials.
However, the data-gathering stage obtained additional data more suited for machine interpretation: interviews averaging 90 minutes were captured over three phases with a Logitech c270 consumer webcam running at 25fps.
The first session comprised of a standard Hamilton interview (based on research originated around 1960), such as would normally be given on admission. In the second phase, unusually, the patients (and their counterparts in the control group) were shown videos of a series of facial expressions, and asked to mimic each of these, while stating their own estimation of their mental condition at that time, including emotional state and intensity. This phase lasted around ten minutes.
In the third and final phase, the participants were shown 96 videos of actors, lasting just over ten seconds each, apparently recounting intense emotional experiences. The participants were then asked to evaluate the emotion and intensity represented in the videos, as well as their own corresponding feelings. This phase lasted around 15 minutes.
Special education teachers ensure an equitable education to millions of students across the nation. With 14 percent of students needing some type of special education service, these teachers play a key role in making sure all students have a chance to thrive academically. General education teachers and students alike rely on special education teachers’ specialized knowledge in skills assessment and the development of learning activities with special needs and disabilities in mind. For this reason, the current special education teacher shortage is especially worrying. So, what’s causing this shortage, and how can leaders begin to address it?
Current and aspiring educators looking for a deeper analysis of the issue should consider American University’s Online School of Education, which offers students expert knowledge about special education challenges, preparing them to address the current shortage.
An Overview of the Current Special Education Teacher Shortage
Special education teacher shortages have persisted for years, putting the education of the country’s most vulnerable students in a precarious position. The Office of Special Education Programs currently lists the national shortage at 8 percent. This large and growing problem affects schools across the country, but the shortage pertains to more than just insufficient numbers of special education teachers.
The shortage also refers to inadequate numbers of properly trained special education teachers. In fact, many first-year special education teachers across the country have not completed special education preparation programs. In California for example, of the 8,470 new special education teachers hired in 2017-18, only 3,274 were fully credentialed.
To gain more insight into the special education teacher shortage, consider the following statistics:
Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia lack sufficient special education teachers.
Special education teachers leave teaching at almost double the rate of general education teachers.
More than half of all school districts struggle to staff well-qualified special education teachers.
Ninety percent of high-poverty school districts struggle to staff well-qualified special education teachers.
Up to 29 percent of vacated special education teacher positions are due to attrition.
Unequal Distributions of the Special Education Teacher Shortage
While the special education teacher shortage affects schools across the spectrum, it tends to impact high-poverty schools most acutely. They face the greatest challenges when it comes to attracting properly trained and experienced special education teachers.
In recent years, enrollment in all teacher preparation programs has dropped considerably, and the number of people completing special education programs has dropped 14 percent, meaning fewer credentialed teachers are available for a growing number of vacancies. Low-income and rural schools find it especially hard to attract and retain the dwindling number of special education teachers. The special education teachers these schools do manage to hire often have less experience than those hired by more affluent schools. For example, many special education teachers in urban and rural districts work with provisional licenses after meeting just a few requirements:
An undergraduate degree
Nine credit hours of coursework covering both general and special education
Successful completion of a basic skills exam
Typically, special education teachers at high-poverty schools have received less special education training and are more likely to hold certifications in areas other than special education compared with teachers at low-poverty schools.
Attrition and the Consequences of the Special Education Teacher Shortage
Data shows that teachers with limited preparation tend to drop out of the profession more frequently than those who finish traditional preparation programs. The reliance on provisional and alternative credentialing programs that send underprepared special education teachers into classrooms contributes to the high teacher turnover rate.
This constant churn of losing and rebuilding teaching faculties comes at a price. Several studies have shown teacher attrition can lower student achievement in English language arts and math and hurt the overall effectiveness of teachers in a school. In addition to the academic price, teacher attrition has a huge financial price tag: the Learning Policy Institute estimates it costs approximately $8 billion dollars a year. As teachers cycle through the profession in increasing numbers, districts must funnel huge amounts of money into recruiting and training new educators to replace them.
The public school system is based on equity. The reputations of the teaching profession and the system rest on their ability to provide stable learning environments to all students. As such, the ongoing special education teacher shortage compromises the entire public school system and tarnishes the profession’s reputation. It creates instability, limits students’ learning opportunities, and results in countless hours of lost instructional time. Additionally, the fact the shortages disproportionately affect marginalized students widens the achievement gap and raises questions of educational equity.
A Look at the Reasons Behind the Special Education Teacher Shortage
Several factors are driving the special education teacher shortage. As mentioned, steep enrollment declines in teacher education programs, alongside high attrition for special education teachers, contribute to the shortage. Working conditions, low pay, and insufficient training and support also factor heavily.
Stressful Working Conditions for Special Education Teachers
Special education teachers often work in stressful environments. Just like general education teachers, they must deal with the challenges of student poverty, insufficient parental involvement, student absenteeism, and a lack of resources. However, they also must contend with excessive paperwork and overwhelming caseloads without the support they need.
For example, special education teachers can find themselves in classrooms without aides trying to teach 20 students with different special needs who require customized instruction. On top of that, they may have a caseload of 20 students who require individualized education programs (IEPs), annual testing, and regular meetings with parents and other teachers. Additionally, failing to meet deadlines or submit necessary paperwork can constitute a federal offense, as IEPs are federally mandated, which puts further pressure on special education teachers.
Click here to read the full article on the School of Education.
This article is part of Upstart, a series on young companies harnessing new science and technology.
Vijay Ravindran has always been fascinated with technology. At Amazon, he oversaw the team that built and started Amazon Prime. Later, he joined the Washington Post as chief digital officer, where he advised Donald E. Graham on the sale of the newspaper to his former boss, Jeff Bezos, in 2013.
By late 2015, Mr. Ravindran was winding down his time at the renamed Graham Holdings Company. But his primary focus was his son, who was then 6 years old and undergoing therapy for autism.
“Then an amazing thing happened,” Mr. Ravindran said.
Mr. Ravindran was noodling around with a virtual reality headset when his son asked to try it out. After spending 30 minutes using the headset in Google Street View, the child went to his playroom and started acting out what he had done in virtual reality.
“It was one of the first times I’d seen him do pretend play like that,” Mr. Ravindran said. “It ended up being a light bulb moment.”
Like many autistic children, Mr. Ravindran’s son struggled with pretend play and other social skills. His son’s ability to translate his virtual reality experience to the real world sparked an idea. A year later, Mr. Ravindran started a company called Floreo, which is developing virtual reality lessons designed to help behavioral therapists, speech therapists, special educators and parents who work with autistic children.
The idea of using virtual reality to help autistic people has been around for some time, but Mr. Ravindran said the widespread availability of commercial virtual reality headsets since 2015 had enabled research and commercial deployment at much larger scale. Floreo has developed almost 200 virtual reality lessons that are designed to help children build social skills and train for real world experiences like crossing the street or choosing where to sit in the school cafeteria.
Last year, as the pandemic exploded demand for telehealth and remote learning services, the company delivered 17,000 lessons to customers in the United States. Experts in autism believe the company’s flexible platform could go global in the near future.
That’s because the demand for behavioral and speech therapy as well as other forms of intervention to address autism is so vast. Getting a diagnosis for autism can take months — crucial time in a child’s development when therapeutic intervention can be vital. And such therapy can be costly and require enormous investments of time and resources by parents.
The Floreo system requires an iPhone (version 7 or later) and a V.R. headset (a low-end model costs as little as $15 to $30), as well as an iPad, which can be used by a parent, teacher or coach in-person or remotely. The cost of the program is roughly $50 per month. (Floreo is currently working to enable insurance reimbursement, and has received Medicaid approval in four states.)
A child dons the headset and navigates the virtual reality lesson, while the coach — who can be a parent, teacher, therapist, counselor or personal aide — monitors and interacts with the child through the iPad.
The lessons cover a wide range of situations, such as visiting the aquarium or going to the grocery store. Many of the lessons involve teaching autistic children, who may struggle to interpret nonverbal cues, to interpret body language.
Autistic self-advocates note that behavioral therapy to treat autism is controversial among those with autism, arguing that it is not a disease to be cured and that therapy is often imposed on autistic children by their non-autistic parents or guardians. Behavioral therapy, they say, can harm or punish children for behaviors such as fidgeting. They argue that rather than conditioning autistic people to act like neurotypical individuals, society should be more welcoming of them and their different manner of experiencing the world.
“A lot of the mismatch between autistic people and society is not the fault of autistic people, but the fault of society,” said Zoe Gross, the director of advocacy at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. “People should be taught to interact with people who have different kinds of disabilities.”
Mr. Ravindran said Floreo respected all voices in the autistic community, where needs are diverse. He noted that while Floreo was used by many behavioral health providers, it had been deployed in a variety of contexts, including at schools and in the home.
“The Floreo system is designed to be positive and fun, while creating positive reinforcement to help build skills that help acclimate to the real world,” Mr. Ravindran said.
In 2017, Floreo secured a $2 million fast track grant from the National Institutes of Health. The company is first testing whether autistic children will tolerate headsets, then conducting a randomized control trial to test the method’s usefulness in helping autistic people interact with the police.
Early results have been promising: According to a study published in the Autism Research journal (Mr. Ravindran was one of the authors), 98 percent of the children completed their lessons, quelling concerns about autistic children with sensory sensitivities being resistant to the headsets.
Ms. Gross said she saw potential in virtual reality lessons that helped people rehearse unfamiliar situations, such as Floreo’s lesson on crossing the street. “There are parts of Floreo to get really excited about: the airport walk through, or trick or treating — a social story for something that doesn’t happen as frequently in someone’s life,” she said, adding that she would like to see a lesson for medical procedures.
However, she questioned a general emphasis by the behavioral therapy industry on using emerging technologies to teach autistic people social skills.
A second randomized control trial using telehealth, conducted by Floreo using another N.I.H. grant, is underway, in hopes of showing that Floreo’s approach is as effective as in-person coaching.
But it was those early successes that convinced Mr. Ravindran to commit fully to the project.
“There were just a lot of really excited people.,” he said. “When I started showing families what we had developed, people would just give me a big hug. They would start crying that there was someone working on such a high-tech solution for their kids.”
Clinicians who have used the Floreo system say the virtual reality environment makes it easier for children to focus on the skill being taught in the lessons, unlike in the real world where they might be overwhelmed by sensory stimuli.
Celebrate the Children, a nonprofit private school in Denville, N.J., for children with autism and related challenges, hosted one of the early pilots for Floreo; Monica Osgood, the school’s co-founder and executive director, said the school had continued to use the system.
Click here to read the full article on New York Times.