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Barb O’Malley ’84 develops scholarship to support women in tech

Barb O'Malley standing outside the Northern Trust Company Building

Barb O'Malley '84 outside the Northern Trust Company building.

Barb O’Malley ’84 was one of few women in applied computer science when she began working for Northern Trust following her graduation. O’Malley has worked with the company for 34 years. During that time, she has gained invaluable insights into her field, working as a team leader for Northern Trust’s lending applications team, leading the charge on the development of the company’s client-facing tools, and providing solution consulting as well as mentoring through the company’s “Mentoring Matters” and “Women in Leadership” forums.

Although O’Malley has seen many changes in the field of applied computer science and information technology during her tenure with Northern Trust, she noticed that there was one thing that hadn’t really changed since she graduated in 1984: there still are not many women in her field.

“Things have changed significantly, but at the same time they haven’t,” O’Malley said.

It was this observation that leads O’Malley to create The School of Information Technology Distinguished Student Scholarship with a $100,000 gift. She wants to help women considering the profession of information technology get their foot in the door, with the goal of making a degree in Information Technology (IT) more accessible.

“I’m surprised that we haven’t really made a lot of progress,” O’Malley said. “I hope that with my scholarship I can create a little incentive for those considering the profession to pursue it.”

O’Malley has always been on the cutting edge of IT development, and when she sat on the Illinois State School of Information Technology Business and Industry Advisory Council, she helped lead the charge to propose an initiative to develop a new cybersecurity sequence at the University. Whether it be in the form of program development or financial aid, O’Malley strives to give back to Illinois State any way she can.

“With the department being fairly new there weren’t many scholarship opportunities,” O’Malley said. “I wanted to give back in a way that helped the computer science department flourish and maintain relevancy.”

With her gift to the School of Information Technology through Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State, O’Malley will be achieving just that. Donations to Redbirds Rising not only empower students to afford an education, they also drive the best and brightest students to rise to the challenge and pursue innovative fields like the cybersecurity sequence at Illinois State.

School of Information Technology Director Mary Elaine Califf is confident that O’Malley’s scholarship will entice the best and brightest to consider studying at Illinois State.

“This new scholarship will be a great asset to the School of Information Technology as we seek to attract excellent students. Four-year scholarships are extremely valuable because students can feel secure in that financial help they are receiving,” Califf said. “Barb has been a wonderful supporter of the school for many years in a variety of ways, and we’re thrilled that she has been able to provide this opportunity for students.”

Although her scholarship gives preference to female students, O’Malley said male students can be considered for the scholarship as well. Her ultimate goal is to foster talent by supporting students of promise, regardless of gender, striving to make IT more inclusive for everyone.

“I want to make sure a college education is available to any person who wants to take advantage of it,” O’Malley said. “What if the next great leader in IT doesn’t go to college because of the cost?”

Donations like O’Malley’s to Redbirds Rising take an important step in ensuring that in the future, the question needn’t be asked.

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