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Dr. Siobahn Day Grady is the first woman computer science Ph.D. graduate from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (2018).

Since then, she’s gone on to make even more of a name not only for herself but for the future of HBCU students in North Carolina.

The Black Wall Street Times spoke with Dr. Grady about her love for HBCUs, optimism for AI, life and family goals, and how she became an unparalleled powerhouse in STEM.

Endlessly intellectually curious, Dr. Grady stated, “I’ve always been a knowledge gatherer and I had two role models in my parents that showed me the process of finding information, learning, and creating hypotheses, so I’ve been in research mode since a child.”

Dr. Grady’s advice to little Black girls with big Black dreams, “take advantage of every opportunity available, seek out the guidance counselor’s at school, especially if they’re in K – 12 because those people have valuable information. Make sure you’re plugged in with teachers or faculty members or guidance counselors to find out what opportunities are available. And then most importantly, shoot your shot.”

Dr. Grady encouraged those feeling rejected or discouraged, saying, “just remember a ‘no’ is sometimes just ‘not right now.'” She affirmed, “‘No’ doesn’t have to mean forever.”

A testament to her hard work and dedication, Dr. Grady stated, “it seems like every next thing that we go through is preparing us for the very next thing.”

“This is the result of years worth of work and lots of prayers.”

An 80s baby born in Durham, North Carolina, and reared in nearby Hillsborough, Dr. Grady remembers growing up loving The Little Mermaid and quiet libraries.

Dr. Grady has been featured in museums throughout the nation, has spoken at national and international conferences, serves on multiple boards, and was featured as a statue in the world’s largest exhibit of women statues.

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She is currently an Assistant Professor and Program Director of Information Science/Systems in the School of Library and Information Sciences at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), Lab Director for the Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence and Equity Research (LAIER), Co-Director for the Center for Data Equity (CODE), an AAAS IF/THEN ambassador, and an Office e-Learning faculty fellow at NCCU.

Dr. Grady says Artificial Intelligence is good, but needs ethics

A pragmatic advocate of AI, Dr. Grady says, “I do think AI will continue to enhance a lot of procedures and processes that companies and organizations have to streamline or automate. A lot of people think they’re taking jobs but it will in fact create new jobs.”

She continued, “I do think AI is good. But I also think there needs to be ethics around how we use AI and there does need to be some regulation. Sometimes we need rules and policies but our government has not yet established with those rules and policies that govern technology.”

Dr. Grady advocates increasing the number of women and minorities in computer science

Dr. Grady believes that the STEM workforce has both gender disparities and that of historically disenfranchised groups.

As an AAAS IF/THEN ambassador, she affects change by examining girls’ perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors, helping them gain confidence in curating and developing a STEM identity.

Not only an expert researcher and orator, but as a newly married mother, Dr. Grady bubbled with joy talking about her newborn King. “He’s the best of us; it’s such a unique opportunity to see that reflected in another human being. It’s been the best time of our lives.”

Dr. Grady holds 4 degrees from 3 HBCUs

Her charitable efforts include establishing four endowed scholarships out of the five public Historically Black Colleges and Universities in North Carolina. These scholarships are STEM-focused and merit-based to alleviate financial burdens on deserving HBCU students. 

“I earned my undergraduate degree in computer science at Winston Salem State University,” said Dr. Grady. “Then I got my Master’s degree from North Carolina Central University in information science and that department is actually the very department I work in now as a faculty member so it’s a full circle moment. And then from North Carolina A&T, I earned both my Master’s and Doctorate in computer science.”

Photo Courtesy: NCCU

Speaking on her endowments, “I’m just happy students can receive funding so that financial burdens can be taken off their plate and they can focus on their studies,” said Dr. Grady.

“I’m excited that I’ve been able to help someone else because those three HBCUs helped me and continue to help me quite a bit. I’m very grateful that I attended all three of them,” said Dr. Grady.

Photo Courtesy: NCCU

“There is no better undergraduate experience that you can have at Winston Salem State University. I truly believe that. I showed up on campus at 17 and I loved the culture and the people immediately.” Dr. Grady continued, “At NCCU, I was actually working and going to school at the same time and the faculty members in that department inspired me to keep going to get my doctorate. They saw my potential and encouraged me to go further. And A&T my goodness, the amount of supportive people who want to see you succeed and provide you with opportunities to be the best — I will never forget that.”

“That’s why I love being a graduate of HBCUs because they truly pour into your soul and spirit to promote the scholarly excellence that is already within you,” said Dr. Grady.

Find out more about Dr. Siobahn Day Grady’s latest research which focuses on utilizing machine learning to identify sources of misinformation on social media and on improving fault detection in autonomous vehicles.

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