Kutztown University Logo

Computing Success with Positivity


Female computer science program graduate sitting with a computer and keyboard next to her.

Alexis Peoples ’21, M’22 remembers her first computer science class at Kutztown.

“I was a little intimidated because everyone in my class was male,” she remembers. Then, her professor passed out a questionnaire.

“One of the questions was, ‘Which programming languages do you use?’ I answered, ‘I don’t use any,’” Peoples says. “There were so many people in that class who knew so much already. There were other questions like, ‘What is your experience with computer science?’ There were some people who chose the option ‘Expert’ to answer, like they had actually worked in the field already and had come back to college to get a better degree. I was very intimidated because I was one of the few, if not the only, person in that class who didn’t have any experience.”

Determined to succeed, Peoples earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2021 and a master’s degree in the field a year later. Her success is noteworthy: A July 2022 article in Scientific American stated that only 20 percent of undergraduate degrees in computer science are earned by women. The article’s authors cited the results of research they published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, a peer-reviewed journal, which examined gender disparities in computer science and engineering fields. They found that the more girls believed gender stereotypes favoring boys in those disciplines, the lower their interest and sense of belonging in them.

Peoples, a native of Philadelphia, had focused on art in high school. A friend who was planning to study computer science recommended KU. Because of her interest in computer game design, Peoples’ mother suggested that she also major in computer science. Acknowledging the two fields are not the same, Peoples decided to give it a try. She liked the fact that she could earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years with KU’s 4-plus-1 accelerated program in computer science.

When she attended the Accepted Students’ Reception, her decision was reinforced COMPUTING SUCCESS with positivity by the warm reception she received from Dr. Lisa Frye ’90, M’93, chair of KU’s Computer Science and Information Technology Department.

“She was excited to see me and wanted me to stay,” Peoples says, adding that as her advisor, Frye encouraged and supported her throughout her undergraduate career. “She definitely did a lot to keep me grounded.”

Peoples soon got up to speed in her classes. She credits her success to a willingness to meet with faculty during office hours to ask questions and clarify class material. Faculty always were eager to help. Although she initially was intimidated by being one of the few women in her major, she says she never experienced gender bias.

“All of my professors were extremely helpful. They never made me feel put down. And neither did any of the men in my classes.”

Peoples says she enjoys the creativity involved in applying computer science. “I like the problem-solving aspect of it. I like that there are so many ways of getting the problem solved. If the first solution that I thought would work did not work, let me try it again.”

After earning her master’s degree, she’s been able to use those problem-solving skills in her job as an applications developer in the Information Technology Department at KU. In that role, she supports computer users across campus in resolving problems. She also is the lead DocuSign developer, making forms for university departments.

After entering a male-dominated field, Peoples has advice for other young women embarking on the same journey.

“I would tell them that, even if it gets hard, you can do it. Just because you’re a woman or because you’re a person of color or you’re disabled, doesn’t mean that you can’t. You can do what you want to do if you put your mind to it. It may be a little bit difficult, but as long as you take the steps and persevere, you’ll get there.”

Alexis Peoples is a 2021 (bachelor's) and 2022 (master's) graduate of Kutztown's Computer Science program.

This article originally appeared in the 2023 Tower Magazine.