Diversity Matters: GT Computing Takes Tapia by Storm

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Diversity matters. The slogan for this year’s ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing, or Tapia, says it all.

To celebrate our diverse GT Computing community, this year the College of Computing sent a group of more than 30 on-campus M.S. and Ph.D. students, as well as online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS) students, to Tapia on either full or partial scholarship.These scholarship recipients arrived for the conference in Austin, Texas from all over the country and represented countless backgrounds and perspectives.


“Tapia is important because it gives African American and Hispanic students a chance to form a community around computing and come to the realization that they are not alone,” said Cedric Stallworth, College of Computing assistant dean for Outreach, Enrollment, and Community. “Those networks are important in supporting people as they try to move forward in a field where they are underrepresented."The statistics on underrepresented groups in computing are depressing (black and hispanic employees account for just 7% of the computer science industry) and universities, as well as the tech industry, still have a lot of growing to do when it comes to diversity. That’s why celebrating diversity is more important than ever for the GT Computing community.

“If you asked 100 people from different ethnicities, cultures, and backgrounds why diversity is important in STEM, I can promise that you would receive 100 different answers,” said Wayne Moore, an OMS CS student attendee, AT&T employee and former member of the U.S. Army. “Why? Because diversity in solving real-world problems is essential to finding a real-world answer. The word diversity means variety. Our perception of analyzing and solving problems are based on our past experiences, cultural beliefs, and genetic factors. For example, no two snowflakes are the same and no two humans are genetically identical. Why? Because diversity matters.”

Throughout Tapia, the GT Computing scholarship attendees participated in talks focused on celebrating those differences, such as “Using Technology and Social Media to Diversify Computing”; “Redefining Inclusion: Technology as an Act of Service,” a keynote presentation from conference namesake and professor Richard A. Tapia of Rice University; and a number of other workshops and fireside chats.

“I am an anthropologist-turned-technologist, so my career aspirations have always had people at the center,” said Lorina Navarro, who’s earning her M.S. in Human-Computer Interaction, of her future career plans. “I’d like to design ethical technology that centers on users’ needs and supports them in their everyday work. In the future, I would also like to be in a position of mentorship to other women and minorities.”

Along with workshops, the students participated in a career fair, which featured a College of Computing informational booth for prospective graduate students. There was even a bit of exploring to do, as many of the students were able to see Austin, Texas, for the first time!

As the students were surrounded by leading industry professionals, faculty and researchers -- all of whom were there to celebrate diversity in their respective fields -- the students’ sense of community and excitement grew. On Thursday night, the College hosted a party for all of the graduate students in attendance. The students came from various walks of life, careers and backgrounds but they arrived at Tapia because of their passion for furthering inclusivity in computing.

Tapia is designed to support and equip students and working professionals with dreams like Navarro and passion like Moore. GT Computing hopes to provide both on-campus and digital spaces to do the same, which is why the College of Computing is a platinum sponsor of Tapia, and why it believes that #DiversityMatters.

To learn more or get involved in next year's ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Computing, visit the Tapia website. If you'd like to find out how make an impact at GT Computing, please contact a member of the Office of Outreach, Enrollment and Community in the College of Computing or send questions and inquiries to communications@cc.gatech.edu and we'll be happy to connect you.