Fearless graduand reaps enticing offers

June 07, 2019

Unsure what path to take for her undergraduate degree, Vasundhara Gautam applied to any university that encourages interdisciplinary studies so that she could study languages or the humanities together with science ‘in a meaningful way.’

She chose Simon Fraser University’s joint major in computing science and linguistics, and will graduate this June.

“I’m really glad that I picked SFU,” says Gautam. “From day one to my last, it’s been amazing. I’ve had such a range of experiences that have all contributed to where I now have multiple job and academic offers to consider.”

Throughout her SFU journey, she seized any opportunity to combine the technology skills she developed in computing science with her passion for learning languages.

“I learned that our perception of the world is shaped to some extent by the languages we speak, which is part of what led me to become interested in the Gender Gap Tracker,” says Gautam, who speaks six languages.

The Gender Gap Tracker is a breakaway collaboration that exposes a significant disparity between how often Canadian news stories quote female versus male sources. Linguistics professor Maite Taboada leads the project for Informed Opinions, a non-profit women’s advocacy organization. SFU’s Big Data Initiative supported the project with funding and computing resources.

As part of the project, Gautam is collaborating with a French-language researcher and the rest of Taboada’s team in the Discourse Processing Lab, where they analyze French-Canadian news.

Her passion for combining gender equity and technology doesn’t stop at the Gender Gap Tracker. In hopes of improving female representation in tech, Gautam mentors young women taking coding workshops hosted by Ladies Learning Code (now Canada Learning Code) and Kids Code Jeunesse. She also participated in the Women in Computing Science (WiCS) group on campus, and founded a coding club in SFU Residence that attracted fellow residents of all genders interested in developing their coding skills.

With demanding classes and a busy schedule, Gautam demonstrated tenacity. She created her own co-op education internship with GE Digital that led to a lucrative job offer. She also received offers of admission from three of the world’s top master’s programs in computational linguistics. She plans to defer an offer from the University of Edinburgh until fall 2020, and has accepted a job offer from a Vancouver start-up.

“These offers aren’t the result of my efforts alone,” she says. “They’re a product of what SFU gave to me. My professors and peers invested in me, gave me opportunities to become involved, and then helped and encouraged me when I faced challenges. I don’t think I would have had these opportunities had I not come to SFU.”