Just because someone graduates with a Computer Science degree doesn’t mean they’re destined for a life of programming, with little input on the government policies that might affect their work. TechCongress, a unique program that enables technologists to advise Members of Congress on technology policy, is just one example of the many unique opportunities there are for CS graduates. Brown CS alum Eleanor Tursman was a “CS graduate student that didn’t like to code”. TechCongress has given her the opportunity to apply her knowledge to something she feels could make a huge difference.
Eleanor’s experience at Brown not only guided her exploration of her many interests, ranging from computer vision, machine learning, and ethical artificial intelligence to name a few, but also reinforced her focus on socially responsible computing. The social impact of Eleanor’s work was always of utmost importance to her, so during her time at Brown she tried out a few different research paths to feel out what was a good fit, grappling with the decision to stay in academia or to branch out into something new.
Professor James Tompkin, Eleanor’s advisor at Brown, suggested she apply for TechCongress. Eleanor had worked well with James even as a first semester grad student, when she took his graduate seminar on computer vision. Looking back, she appreciates how she was “able to collaborate productively with James”. Not only was Eleanor involved with research, she also was working with undergraduate students as a graduate teaching assistant. She “loved working with undergrads.”
TechCongress offers Eleanor many opportunities to apply her knowledge of computer science to enact change through policy making. One of the unique features of the fellowship is that there is no policy experience required, and so far Eleanor has learned about the many ways she can offer solutions and advice in addition to policy creation. Alongside assisting with legislation, she also helps out Congresspeople with hearings to raise awareness and writes memos, letters to major tech companies, and op-eds, all focused on technology. These deliverables are often geared toward pushing technology to become more socially responsible. Overall, Eleanor’s experience at TechCongress so far has informed her of the many opportunities there are for someone like her, a CS graduate committed to socially responsible computing.
Eleanor is “still learning to navigate the complicated world of fast-growing tech and how to solve the issues that come with this growth.” A big reason she became so involved with socially responsible computing in grad school at Brown was because she realized that computer vision “has the potential to affect lives of many many people.” Throughout the course of Brown grad school, she realized “how important it was to have people understand the limitations of machine learning so we don't enter a dystopian future.” Eleanor continues to enjoy, learn, and thrive at TechCongress. It’s offered her the chance to learn about many things that matter so much to her and she’s glad to highlight an experience for computer science folks other than software engineering and academia.
To learn more about TechCongress and the other fellows, click here.
For more information, click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communication and Outreach Specialist Jesse C. Polhemus.