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Teaching the code

Professor envisions programming and machine-learning courses for computer science majors and non-STEM students alike.

March 10, 2019

Professor Irma Ravkic, PhDAS A CHILD IN THE ’90S, IRMA RAVKIC SPENT HER DAYS sifting through the language of computers, fascinated by every new possibility that came with the technology boom of the decade. Because she grew up in war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina, finding the latest computers was challenging but also thrilling. It was an interest sparked by Ravkic’s father, a computer technician, who tenaciously tracked down equipment.

“I learned my letters on the keyboard,” Ravkic says. “My father gave me a book of advanced codes, and we would run programs and fix errors and play around with it. I felt his excitement about getting the best out of technology.” Ravkic was hired as the Mount’s first assistant professor of computer science last year to develop a computer science major and to teach programming, coding, data science and the structure and comparison of programming languages, among other courses. 

She relates to her Mount Saint Mary’s students who find computer science intriguing, but may be intimidated by the field, especially as women. Ravkic first studied languages, but later regained her confidence in computer science and became an electrical engineering major in college. “Sometimes you go off the path because you are afraid that it is too much for you, because the environment is kind of against you,” she says. “You can go off your track and come back to it.”

Ravkic teaches students from diverse majors, tailoring their experiences. She helps future chemists, nurses and journalists ramp up their computer science skills to be more competitive. “Coding is a tool for creative problem solving,” she says. “It helps automate processes for various domains, from math, science and robotics to languages, games and apps. Everyone should have an opportunity to try it.”