Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code — a nonprofit to support women in the computer science field — visited Ann Arbor Thursday to campaign for Hillary Clinton in the Michigan Union.
With the Nov. 8 election nearing, Saujani stressed her endorsment of Clinton, noting she has clear policies in place for innovation and technological advancements and has shown support for women and people of color.
“She is the tech candidate of this presidential cycle,” Saujani said. “She has made a commitment to continue President Obama’s work on ‘(Computer Science) For All,’ (including) making sure we get computer science to every classroom, and making sure that we go to the classrooms that are the hardest to reach.”
The Democratic presidential nominee has included plans to double investment in the Computer Science for All program and launch a new set of grants in her platform.
Clinton also aims to substantially expand the pool of computer science teachers through a number of different methods, such as recruiting new teachers and retraining existing ones. According to the campaign’s website, the goal is to ensure teachers stay up-to-date with new technology, provide them with learning opportunities and streamline certification pathways.
“A huge problem in getting computer science into classrooms is the lack of teachers, and she’s made a commitment to making sure we train 50,000 new computer science teachers,” Saujani said. “Her policies on entrepreneurship — having young entrepreneurs have loan forgiveness programs up to $75,000 for five years — is the incentive that is going to make people start those new businesses. She made a commitment to making sure that happens in underserved areas.”
LSA senior Pavithra Vetriselvan, who is majoring in computer science, said Clinton’s new policies have a huge impact on computer science students and potentially increase the number of teachers in the workforce.
“I think (Clinton’s computer science initiatives) are amazing,” Vetriselvan said. “I think that’s something that’s so important, because after studying CS, there’s huge pressure to work for a big tech company and have that be your justification for spending four years in college. But I think there’s a huge need for teachers for computer science education in high school and lower, and you can’t do that until you have people who can actually teach. I think the proposition for helping out student loans and trading that in for a couple years of teaching would change a lot of things — I would do it.”
Engineering senior Caroline Gluck also echoed this sentiment, saying this work could positively impact future STEM graduates.
“I think it could almost be the next Teach for America type thing,” Gluck said. “I know one of my friends just got this offer at an amazing consulting firm, and he’s taking a year off to do Teach for America and then going to do that. So it could become something like that in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.”
Saujani also emphasized the Clintons’ involvement with Girls Who Code, saying that Clinton, unlike her opponent, is committed to channeling resources toward the advancement of women and people of color in STEM fields.
“I haven’t heard Donald Trump talk about the issue (of a lack of women in STEM) at all,” Saujani said. “Chelsea’s come and spoken to the girls and so has Hillary, and she has been having a long-term conversation about how do we make sure, now that 40 percent of American breadwinners are women, that we’re going into industries that pay a good wage. And science, technology, engineering and math are those industries.”
Vetriselvan said she is inspired by a possible Clinton presidency, appreciating her political knowledge and wide range of experience.
“The bulk of it hasn’t even really hit me yet — she’s amazing,” Vetriselvan said. “I think she stands for a lot of things that women everywhere stand for, and I think having her in office just offers a new perspective that hasn’t been there ever.”
Saujani also told the crowd she supports Clinton because of a need for a change in the face of power. She challenged attendees to consider which candidate would be an advocate and inspiration for women and people of color across the country.
“Look at what’s happening in this election, and look at some of the words that are coming out of Donald Trump and the way he speaks about women,” Saujani said. “Don’t you think little girls are listening to that? And feeling like ‘Oh, this isn’t for me?’ We need someone who uplifts women, and we need someone who’s going to help change this culture and help be a role model for young women. And that person is Hillary.”