I met Jacqueline Gibson at Ursuline Academy, where she was a year ahead of me.
(ABOVE: Jacqueline Gibson created an association at the University of Texas to help mentor other black computer science students. Courtesy photos)
She was recruiting members for the Sewing for Others club, and though I didn’t share her passion for sewing, she still waved to me in the halls.
I hadn’t contacted Jackie since she graduated in 2015, but that’s what Facebook is for.
I’ve liked her photos, been impressed when she announced she’d scored an internship at Microsoft, and when a classmate told me about the work she’s done to make technology more equitable, I wanted to reach out.
My first question made her laugh. “I loved Sewing for Others! And I kept up with my crafting,” she said.
Jackie’s philanthropic spirit flourished in Austin, where she joined service organizations like Delta Sigma Theta and continued making hats for people in need.
So how does computer science fit into her passion for service?
“I felt alone. It would’ve been great to have a mentor or friends with a similar background for support.” -Jacqueline Gibson
It all started at Ursuline, a school she didn’t expect to love.
“I didn’t like that it was an all-girls school, but when I went to the open house, I just knew that I wanted to be part of Ursuline. It seemed magical,” Jackie said.
As she sought to embody the Ursuline motto of Serviam (I will serve), Jackie realized that, surprisingly, she could apply service to technology.
“I took Mr. Poellot’s web development class and found myself drawn to the curriculum. We created websites for our community, and it showed me how something as simple as writing a few lines of code can make an impact.”
After attending UT’s computer science camp First Bytes, she realized technology was the perfect fit.
When she started college, though, Jackie found that black students were sprinkled throughout the computer science department without any unification.
“I felt alone. It would’ve been great to have a mentor or friends with a similar background for support.”
Inspired by Ursuline to be a change-maker instead of someone who accepts what’s been dealt to her, Jackie created UT’s Association of Black Computer Scientists to offer students mentorship and support. Since then, she’s seen the community grow.
“There is a larger class of black students,” she said. “When they come in, they have built-in mentors. We’ve also seen a higher number of black students get internships.”
With degrees in computer science and African and African diaspora studies, Jackie uses an interdisciplinary perspective to “create equity in society through technology.”
She applied to Microsoft’s internship program her freshman year. “Their mission is to empower every person and organization to achieve more and create technology for good.”
After graduating in May, Jackie returned to Microsoft as a full-time employee on the Accessible Development team and is working on a tool to scan webpages to ensure they are accessible to people with low vision.
It’s familiar work on familiar ground, but Jackie can’t help but feel nervous. “It will be weird to be far away from my family, but if something doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”