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Molinaroli College of Engineering and Computing

  • IIT Instructor Sharon Gumina

Shaping minds and breaking stereotypes

The coding philosophy of Sharon Gumina

Instructor Sharon Gumina has witnessed the evolution of information technology and computer networks in her more than 30 years in industry and academia. Her professional experience began at a Washington, D.C. law firm, where she provided technical support for existing hardware and participated in evaluating various system solutions.

Gumina's lifelong dedication to education, coupled with her openness to leveraging technological advancements, has positioned her as a forward-thinking educator contributing to the inclusive and evolving landscape of coding education. Her commitment to breaking down barriers aligns with the broader movement toward making coding accessible to all learners.

Gumina’s perspective reflects a lifelong dedication to education and a belief in the universal accessibility of coding skills.

 "I have always been passionate about teaching technology in a way that is relatable to everybody,” says Gumina, who has a rich background in teaching since 2007 and a commitment to inclusivity. “I believe anybody can learn to code if they can get over some of the stereotypes associated with it." 

As an instructor in the Department of Integrated Information Technology (IIT), Gumina currently teaches Python, a high-level, general-purpose programming language, for a software design class. Her teaching philosophy is focused on hands-on learning. In addition to the language and concepts needed for Python, her approach reflects a dedication to providing students with practical, real-world applications for coding skills.

Gumina’s industry experience includes roles such as systems analyst, IT support coordinator, applications developer and analyst. Her combination of professional experiences and a willingness to adapt to new technologies, including large language models, speaks to her forward-looking approach in the ever-evolving field of IIT education.

“Students find Sharon’s ability to integrate her professional IT experience with solid instructional approaches for teaching programming languages and other IT topics, like networking, cybersecurity and Internet of Things, effective and enjoyable,” says Elizabeth Regan, chair of the IIT Department. “She helps students master not just technology skills but also the ability to use them to develop innovative business solutions.”

Outside of the classroom, Gumina is committed to volunteering and cultivating interest in IT and coding with younger generations. She is also a certified instructor at Girls Who Code, a national effort which helps instruct programming skills and language to high school girls while encouraging them to pursue IT careers. She hopes her work will help address some challenges in programming. According to Gumina, one challenge is the need for more students graduating from high school who are interested in programming. Another challenge is the number of students who choose a STEM curriculum but eventually transfer to a different major.  

“Increasingly, there are fewer females in programming, so we're not reaching a segment of the population that can do this,” Gumina says. “I think the biggest challenge that is emerging is we're going to have to change how we teach this skill because the industry is changing with the emergence of large language models.”

Gumina is at the forefront of incorporating advanced artificial intelligence systems, known as large language models, into the classroom. While some professors prohibit their use, she embraces the evolving landscape of the industry. Gumina and her colleagues have recently published a paper outlining strategies for teaching in this new era of accessible large language models. 

"As educators, we are not just teachers; we are also lifelong learners. Embracing change, staying curious, and continuously expanding our knowledge are essential not only for our professional growth but also for the success of the students we guide,” Gumina says. “In the ever-evolving landscape of education, our commitment to learning is what keeps us at the forefront, shaping the future with each lesson we impart and each new piece of knowledge we acquire."

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.