Foundation Scholar Mandy Davis
Background on Mandy Davis
Mandy Davis was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ, where she attended Desert Vista High School. Mandy spent most of her time in high school running with the cross country and track team, as well as constantly changing her career interests. In November 2016, Mandy signed her National Letter of Intent to run cross country for Northwestern, and intended to study psychology. After watching a Pixar in a Box video later in the year, she gained an appreciation for computer science and wished to add that to her Northwestern experience.
Fast forward to her junior year at Northwestern: Mandy is a student in the Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences pursuing a degree in Psychology, and enjoys the diversity of classes she takes thanks to her adjunct major, Science in Human Culture, as well as her Computer Science minor.
In an engineering design class called Design, Thinking, and Communication during her first year, Mandy and her team developed a one-handed video game controller, inControl. This brief exposure to design research through working on inControl prompted Mandy’s first visit the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) and her newfound dream of finding a summer research job. Dreams became reality and she worked as a Research Assistant at NU’s Social Media Lab, which is directed by Professor Jeremy Birnholtz. Advised by Professor Birnholtz and funded by an Academic Year Undergraduate Research Grant from the OUR, Mandy conducted an independent research project on female initiator requirements in dating apps during the fall and winter of 2018. She presented on this project at the 2019 Northwestern Undergraduate Research Expo.
Mandy’s research interests have since consolidated into the realm of computer science education and equity, thanks to the experience of teaching little kids how to code while working at Code Ninjas the summer after her sophomore year. Funded by the NU For Life Kabiller Award, Mandy took a trip to Southampton and London, UK in December 2019 to learn about England’s unique National Curriculum for Computer Science.
Beyond research, running still remains as Mandy’s activity of choice, which she continues to pursue competitively as a member of Northwestern’s varsity cross country team. Mandy is ecstatic to have the opportunity to research and literally run around the world over the course of her Circumnavigators trip.
Mandy Davis' Research Topic
In Psychology of Gender, a course taught by Professor Renee Engeln, Mandy saw a graph detailing what is known as the STEM Gender Equality Paradox. Mandy’s Circumnavigators research project is based upon a more specific version of this, the ICT Gender Equality Paradox. ICT stands for Information and Communication Technologies, so this paradox is the finding that there is a relatively high ratio of women to men (near fifty-fifty) graduating with degrees in computer science and related subject areas in countries with very low gender equality; conversely, there is a low ratio of women to men graduating with these degrees in countries with high gender equality. It is unclear why this paradox occurs, so Mandy’s exploratory research project will address that exact gap in knowledge in order to lay the groundwork for future research on the topic. To accomplish this, Mandy will travel to six different countries deliberately chosen from along the gender equality spectrum, where she will interview ICT students and professionals as well as conduct an ethnography component in ICT classrooms and workplaces.
In addition to understanding potential reasons underlying the paradox, a second goal of the project is to collect instances of cultural practices, policies, or any other social or economic forces that either help or hinder women in their pursuit of ICT in a given country. From this knowledge, Mandy hopes to be able to provide evidence-based recommendations for intervention programs that aim to make ICT a more attractive field for women.
Itinerary of Circumnavigation
Mandy planned to visit these places during her circumnavigation in the summer of 2020. As noted above, due to Covid, Mandy was unable to travel.