PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. -- Dr. Jean Coppola, professor of gerontechnology at Pace University, never in a million years thought she'd be a winner of Westchester County Association's prestigious 'Women in Tech' award.
"I’ve attended the event throughout the years and though to myself, 'These women are amazing, I’ll never receive this award,'" she said. However, this October, Coppola and four other award winners will be honored for their contributions to science and technology.
For Coppola, who is celebrating thirty years at Pace, science has always been her passion."My interest in science and technology stems from grammar school," she said. "I had a great science teacher who pushed us to do math and science fairs; I would build little calculators, counters and things like that."
As an undergraduate at Hofstra University, she found her true love in computer engineering. "I was one of two other women in the program, but that wasn’t something you thought about at the time," she said, reflecting on her class. "As soon as I graduated, I knew I wanted to continue my education."
Coppola's Pace connection grew out of a help wanted ad she stumbled upon while looking for work. "I came across a Pace ad for an evening computer lab supervisor at the Westchester campus," she said. Although she didn't land the job, Coppola was offered a similar role at the school's Manhattan campus, and the rest is history.
"I only planned to stay for a few years while earning my master’s, but every few years Pace made me an offer I couldn’t refuse," she said. As the use of computers grew on Pace's campus, Coppola became an expert on programming and new technology. However, it wasn't until after she received her doctorate in computing technology and education in 2003 that she began work in gerontechnology, which studies the way older adults use technology.
Today, Coppola instructs students on the accessibility of computers and technology, helping the current generation teach technology to seniors in the community. "The goal is to help elderly people improve their quality of life and daily activity," she said.
As Coppola takes the stage to be honored, she reminds the next generation of women in technology that though it might be difficult, it's worth the effort to stick with it. "Everything is not peaches and cream and everything doesn’t come easy," she said. "But this is the field to be in and this is where things are exciting."