headshot of Steph Hippo, CWRU studentEarly in life, senior Stephanie Hippo’s parents gave her sound advice: “You can complain about something, but until you do something about it, you’re just part of the problem.” Two years ago, Hippo encountered a problem—the lack of women in computer science—and decided to do something about it.

Originally a biomedical engineering major, Hippo switched to computer science after an internship with MIM Software in Beachwood the summer after her first year.

The following school year, Hippo started her computer science curriculum and got involved in the CWRU Hacker Society, a computing student interest group on campus. In both situations, she immediately took notice of her surroundings.

“It was mostly guys,” she said. “Everyone was very welcoming toward me, but it was still intimidating.”

At Hacker Society, Hippo realized she was often the only woman who attended on a regular basis—a fact she wanted to change.

So when the Hacker Society added a public relations chair to its leadership team, Hippo quickly volunteered to take the position. She became the first woman on the leadership board and focused her efforts on making the group’s image less intimidating and on recruiting more women to get involved.

“There is so much opportunity in the computer science field,” Hippo said. “I didn’t want others to miss out because they felt like an outsider. I wanted women to know that they could do anything they wanted and we could help them get there.”

Hippo’s efforts paid off. In her year as the public relations chair, she grew the number of active women members to more than ten, while also increasing awareness of the group on campus. This year, the number of women in leadership in the group increased to two.

Although successful in improving women’s involvement in Hacker Society, Hippo wanted to do more. She wanted to increase women’s presence in computer science and other STEM fields at Case Western Reserve. (In fact, she wrote a blog post on the topic for Medium)

One way she worked toward this goal was by organizing a trip to the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. Hopper was an American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral who was a pioneer in the field of computer science.

The annual conference typically draws 8,000 attendees—94 to 96 percent of which are women. Hippo organized the trip and worked tirelessly to acquire funding to cover the costs. Eight CWRU women were able to attend the conference in San Francisco, where they networked and met their roles model in the STEM fields.

“It was weird to see the ratio [of men to women] flipped,” Hippo said. “We met with some CWRU alumni and women from as far away as Sydney. It was a great three days. I can’t wait for more women to get there in the future.”

After graduating in May, Hippo and her fiancé are moving to Seattle. There, Hippo will begin working at Google Seattle as an engineering resident, while her fiancé pursues a graduate degree at the University of Washington.

Her presence at Hacker Society and the computer science department will be missed, but her efforts won’t be forgotten.

“I’ve gotten a lot of messages from other women thanking me for helping to build up the community of women in computer science,” Hippo said. “So, I think I’m leaving CWRU better than when I first came here five years ago.”

Learn more about Hippo in this week’s five questions.

1. What is your favorite city? Why?

I would have to say Munich because I love its soccer team—Bayern Munich. Also, the city itself is awesome and has great food and drink.

2. In all of your education, who of your teachers had the greatest impact on you?

The two teachers who had the most impact on my education were Mrs. Miller, my eighth grade algebra teacher, and Mrs. Mackereth, my eighth grade space science teacher. The both made me feel comfortable in the STEM fields. I was able to meet up with them when I went home during spring break.

3. When it comes to music, what artist is one of your “guilty pleasures?” Why?

I have been caught singing songs by Natasha Bedingfield on more than one occasion.

4. What one word would you use to describe yourself, and what one word would your friends use to describe you?

I would describe myself as a “learner” and my friends would describe me as “organized.”

5. What is your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

I’d have to say the group at Hacker Society. I’ve been hanging out in Glennan Building working on projects practically all semester, but it’s been with the people I’d be with outside of school anyway.

The CWRU Hacker Society meets on Wednesday nights in Glennan Building, Room 421. On Saturdays, students are invited to Glennan Building’s student lounge from 2-4 p.m. to work on personal projects.