CORVALLIS - An Oregon State University computer science student from rural Oregon who grew up in a single-wide mobile home without plumbing or electricity has been awarded a prestigious $10,000 Google Anita Borg Scholarship and a trip to the internet company's Bay Area headquarters where she met co-founder Larry Page.
Kami Vaniea, a senior at the OSU College of Engineering, beat out applicants from across the U.S. to win one of the only four of the highly coveted scholarships given to undergraduates, placing her in the ranks with students from top engineering programs like Carnegie Mellon and Stanford.
Vaniea, who grew up 20 miles outside LaGrande, Oregon where one winter was so harsh that her brother's baby bottle froze, said the award is encouraging.
"This scholarship is very important to me. It's one thing when my professor says I am one of his best students, but when a company the size of Google says it and puts $10,000 behind their statement that really means something," she said. "Winning this scholarship has made it clear to me that I'm just as capable as the students who go to Berkley and Carnegie Mellon."
Ron Adams, dean of engineering at OSU, said Vaniea personifies the caliber of student the university is attracting as it builds a nationally ranked engineering program. "Kami's story has been such an inspiration to me because she is a great example of our purpose here. She applied and won the nation's most prestigious scholarship in computer science and our passion is to grow and enrich opportunities for people like her," Adams said. "I'm very proud of Kami. She is one of our best people, and I'm honored she is part of OSU."
In the past, Vaniea's personality and passion for increasing the number of women in computer science and engineering has yielded comparisons to Anita Borg for whom the scholarship is named. "I think it is great that OSU is making the effort to recruit more women into computer science and engineering," she said. "I've done a lot [of work] with women-in-engineering projects. I'm excited about what I do and it shows. I'm not afraid of putting all of my effort into something I see value in."
Terri Fiez, Director of the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science is pleased with the senior's achievement. "Kami is a 'mover and a shaker." She's involved. She's an example. She's a leader," Fiez said. "This is wonderful recognition for Kami and her accomplishments."
The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship honors the legacy of Dr. Anita Borg and her impact on furthering women's education and their careers, particularly in the fields of computer science and information technology. Scholarship awardees are required to have a 3.5 GPA or greater and are selected based on their academic performance, essays and letters of recommendation.
In addition to her advocacy for women and minorities in engineering, Vaniea is president of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) student chapter and works as an undergraduate research assistant with OSU computer science professor Jon Herlocker. She is spending this summer as an intern at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California, before departing for a semester abroad studying at the Danish Technical University in Denmark