International Women’s Day: Colleen van Lent Empowers Others Through Teaching

Onawa Gardiner, Marketing Specialist

“I can pay it forward by providing access to learning opportunities to others.” -Dr. Colleen van Lent

This International Women’s Day we celebrate Dr. Colleen van Lent, an inspiration for residential students and global learners, as she leads by example to increase access and opportunities for women in STEM. Dr. van Lent, a Lecturer in Information at the University of Michigan, serves as a role model for women in both her professional and philanthropic activities by mentoring women early on in their STEM careers and studies at the University of Michigan. Additionally, Dr. van Lent teaches the online course, Web Design for Everybody, which has provided over 70,000 global learners with the foundational skills to create accessible web experiences. Dr. van Lent also introduces children to computer science through volunteer work.

“I now realize that this early exposure was crucial.  It never occurred to me there was anything unusual about me using a computer. Until, that is, I went to college.”

Dr. van Lent’s commitment to teaching and helping women achieve their ambitions is derived from her own experience. She experienced the juxtaposition of a supportive family environment that introduced her to computer science at an early age combined with a lack of female faculty role models in her computer college courses. This led Dr. van Lent to ask “so what can I do to help make my reality a reality for others?” Her answer was to play a major role in educating the next generation of women in STEM. Each spring she teaches programming to elementary school children and coaches a “Science Olympiad” team in computing. Professionally, she has worked tirelessly to transform the web experience by teaching web development that incorporates standards to make sites accessible to wide audiences through her Specialization. Additionally, she designed the Web Design for Everybody Specialization to increase global workers’ access to web development skills and empower learners to become comfortable and adept with technology.

Check out Dr. van Lent’s post on the Coursera blog to learn more about what inspires her to empower others to pursue Computer Science.

Watch this video to learn why she believes a comfortable knowledge base in technology is so important.

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Enrollment is currently open for Colleen’s Web Design for Everybody Specialization. We also invite you to join the conversation by using the course hashtag #WD4E (Web Design for Everybody).

Colleen van Lent
Colleen van Lent
Lecturer of Information
School of Information
University of Michigan


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