Kennesaw State professor uses platform to encourage women in STEM
KENNESAW, Ga. (May 28, 2021) — Paola Spoletini recalls stepping into her first engineering course at Politecnico di Milano in Italy as one of the only female students among a class of 100.
Equipped with decades of research experience and a platform through which she can connect with the next generation of STEM scholars, Spoletini now plays an active role in encouraging other women to take their seat at the table.
A professor of software engineering in Kennesaw State University’s College of Computing and Software Engineering, Spoletini said she recognized her own passion for STEM at an early age. She was raised by two mathematicians and has two sisters who launched STEM careers, one becoming an engineer and the other a physician.
An accomplished researcher in her own right, Spoletini was awarded the Most Influential Paper Award by the 2020 IEEE International Requirements Engineering (RE) Conference, an honor given to those who demonstrate the “single largest impact on the requirements engineering community over the past 10 years.” In the area of requirements engineering – activities that determine expectations for a new or modified product – she received more than $390,000 from the National Science Foundation to conduct research that could ultimately lead to improved development of software systems.
“We were never told that there was something we couldn’t do,” Spoletini said. “To be honest, being in a room full of men never shook me. There was an understanding that diversity would only be beneficial and allow us to pull on the power of our different backgrounds and perspectives.”
At KSU, she works to instill the same mindset in her students. After arriving in 2015, Spoletini launched the Tiresias Lab, designed to introduce software engineering students to more advanced applications of requirements engineering. Beyond the high-level research conducted there, Spoletini takes pride in the fact she leads a diverse team of undergraduate and graduate students to study alongside her.
“What I really try to demonstrate is that we are all collaborators in this space,” she said. “I may be the professor, but nobody’s opinions outweigh the next. We all have a voice, and we can work together to achieve a common goal.”
The message has taken hold for several of her students. Kim Hertz, who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in software engineering at KSU before enrolling in a Ph.D. program at New York University, credits Spoletini with helping give her direction.
“Through our joint work, I discovered my passion for research, which led me to realize this is where I wanted my studies to take me,” Hertz said. “I learned a lot from her experience. She has always been encouraging, providing me with opportunities to expand my horizons.”
– Travis Highfield
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.