We are Break Through Tech Chicago.
Meet the instructors, researchers, and staff who care deeply about introducing more women to computer science and technology.
Amita Shetty, Director
Amita Shetty has more than 20 years of strategic experience in corporations and startups. Prior to joining Break Through Tech Chicago, she was senior vice president of business development at GATX Corporation, where she pursued investments in support of the company’s growth and diversification and led the North American strategy, marketing, and commercial technology functions. Earlier in her career, she worked for General Electric, holding positions in GE Capital, GE Corporate, and GE Transportation. Shetty is an advocate for socioeconomic and gender equity, advocating for leadership roles for women in the workplace and advancing economic outcomes for women globally. She is active in Social Venture Partners Chicago, supports women-led socially conscious entrepreneurial ventures via SheEO, and is a long-term advocate of Reading in Motion’s literacy programs. In addition to her work at Break Through Tech, she teaches courses at UIC and Loyola University Chicago. She holds a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from Lafayette College and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Susan Poser, Administrative Lead
Susan Poser is the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs and the chief operating officer at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She is responsible for the university’s academic enterprise, including the planning, implementation, and assessment of UIC’s academic programs. Poser is an honors graduate of Swarthmore College, where she majored in ancient Greek and political science. She also has a law degree and a PhD in jurisprudence and social policy from the University of California, Berkeley. After law school, Poser served as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit and was the Zicklin Fellow in Ethics at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Before coming to UIC, Poser was a faculty member and then dean of the University of Nebraska College of Law. She also served for three years as the associate to the chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her scholarly work is primarily in the areas of legal ethics and tort law.
Robert H. (Bob) Sloan, Academic Lead
Robert Sloan is a professor and the department head of computer science at UIC, where he has overseen the growth of the department from 28 to 55 faculty to date. He holds a BS in mathematics from Yale and an SM and PhD in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the early 2000s, Sloan served as a program director at the National Science Foundation; he is now a member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee. His scholarly work includes both computer science education and public policy and legal issues in computer security, electronic privacy, and machine learning. He is an IEEE Computer Science Golden Core member and a 2019 University of Illinois University Scholar. Sloan has a longstanding interest in diversity in computer science. He was chair of the diversity committee of the Educational Activities Board of the IEEE Computer Society from 2001 to 2005, and he has published papers on CS education topics that include diversity as a major consideration. Since 2014, Sloan has been proud to serve as a computer science department head in the BRAID (Building, Recruiting, and Inclusion for Diversity) initiative.
Dale Reed, Curriculum Lead
Dale Reed is a clinical professor of computer science at UIC. In partnership with his colleague Elena Lathos, Reed helped to increase undergraduate computer science enrollment from 187 students in 2005 to more than 1,500 today, placing UIC on the forefront of a national wave of growth. Reed has given more than 300 presentations to more than 10,000 high school students over seven years, encouraging them to consider a future in computing. Reed double-majored in English and computer science at North Park University and obtained his PhD in computer science at Northwestern University. He has long been invested in computer science education for underrepresented minorities and has received more than $2 million in grants to develop programs for this purpose. Fluent in Spanish, Reed was the principal investigator of the National Science Foundation-funded Summer Science Camp from 1992 to 1996; 90 out of 100 inner-city Chicago middle school students who participated indicated an increased interest in STEM careers after completing the program. As co-principal investigator on the CS Scholars S-STEM grant, also funded by the National Science Foundation, Reed recruited and nurtured 27 Latino, African-American, and female students in their computer science education at UIC; 86 percent of them went on to pursue tech careers. As a founding member of the Chicago Computer Science Teachers Association, Reed ran Google-funded “CS4HS” seminars for multiple years and was part of the team that worked from 2009 to 2016 to ensure that computer science would be a high school graduation requirement in the Chicago Public Schools. Reed has been involved with the replication of the Los Angeles Exploring Computer Science grant in Chicago and was co-principal investigator on the NSF CE21 Taste of Computing grant and the ongoing NSF CafeCS grant, working to increase equity in CS education. Reed is a product of the early version of the ECS Facilitator in Development program and is now a national ECS Professional Development mentor facilitator. He was a member of the College Board Development Committee for three years, helping to establish the new AP CS Principles (CSP) course. Reed joined the AnitaB.org board of trustees in October 2019.
Elena Lathos, Director of Community Development
Elena Lathos has more than 14 years of experience working with students at all levels and has been a part of the UIC community since 2002. She has been involved with recruiting, retention, admissions, and advising for undergraduate and graduate students in computer science. As the staff member supporting undergraduate recruiting, Lathos was a driving force behind the UIC computer science department’s growth from 187 students in 2005 to more than 1,500 today. She provided critical feedback in the design and construction of UIC’s computer science lounge, a campus space that fosters academic and community development among CS majors. Lathos plans recruiting events; has recruited, hired, and supervised staff; and guides the content and format of recruiting presentations and communications. As part of the National Science Foundation-funded CS Scholars program, Lathos was affectionately known as “Mom” to many students as she conducted regular check-ins and offered a listening ear and wise feedback. She is an active mentor to UIC’s female computer science students and, as part of that role, has led the department’s delegation to the Grace Hopper Conference for women in technology several times. Lathos has an undergraduate degree in psychology from Salisbury State University, where she played Division III lacrosse and worked in a domestic violence shelter and crisis center. She returned to her hometown of Chicago and obtained her MBA from UIC.
Shanon Reckinger, Instructor
Shanon Reckinger, associate professor of computer science at UIC, has 10 years of experience teaching introductory and advanced programming to undergraduate and graduate students. She received a BS in mechanical engineering and a BA in mathematics from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. She earned her MS and PhD in mechanical engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder. Post-PhD, she received an additional MS degree in computer science education at Stanford University in 2018 and participated in the Faculty-In-Residence program at Google in 2019. At UIC, Reckinger teaches computer science courses and continues her research in computer science education, particularly in the area of inclusive pedagogy design, strategies for improving problem-solving skills, and interventions to increase retention. She is senior personnel and computer science mentor on a $1 million National Science Foundation S-STEM grant for recruiting, retention, and graduation of academically talented low-income engineering students. In fall 2019, Reckinger received $26,000 from Google to run exploreCSR workshops to raise awareness of careers in computing research among female undergraduate computer science students and to increase their skills and confidence in problem-solving. Reckinger is a faculty fellow in the UIC Office of Diversity’s inclusive classroom initiative and the faculty advisor to the Women in Computer Science (WiCS) student organization.
Peter Nelson, Dean of Engineering
Peter C. (Pete) Nelson is dean of UIC’s College of Engineering, where he is also a professor of computer science. He has a BA in mathematics and computer science from North Park University and an MS and PhD in computer science from Northwestern University. Prior to assuming the role of dean in July 2007, Nelson was head of the computer science department. In 1991, he founded UIC’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, which specializes in applied intelligence systems projects in fields such as transportation, manufacturing, bioinformatics, and e-mail spam countermeasures. He has published more than 100 scientific peer-reviewed papers, and he has been the principal investigator on more than $40 million in research grants and contracts on issues such as computer-enhanced transportation systems, manufacturing, design optimization, bioinformatics, and engineering education. These projects have been funded by organizations such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Motorola. In 1994 and 1995, his laboratory, sponsored by the Illinois Department of Transportation, developed the first real-time traffic congestion map on the World Wide Web, which now receives more than 100 million hits per year. Nelson is co-principal investigator on an ongoing five-year NSF project that seeks to recruit talented students from lower-income households to pursue engineering and computer science majors and give them the resources they need for success. In addition to his responsibilities as dean, Nelson serves as advisor and mentor to 18 computer science undergraduates.