GT Computing Takes the Spotlight at Tapia 2017

GT Computing Takes the Spotlight at Tapia 2017

Atlanta played host to the 2017 Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing, held Sept. 20-23 in the downtown Hyatt Regency, and once again a strong contingent of GT Computing students, faculty, and staff represented the College of Computing and all its efforts to build equity of access to computing education.

This year, however, those efforts literally took center stage, as the College received the inaugural University Award for Retention of Minorities and Students with Disabilities in Computer Science. The awarded recognizes U.S. institutions that have demonstrated a proven commitment to recruiting and retaining students from underrepresented groups in undergraduate computing programs.

Awarded by the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT (CMD-IT), the honor was accepted on behalf of the College by Executive Associate Dean Charles Isbell, Assistant Dean Cedric Stallworth, and Director of Computing Enrollment Jennifer Whitlow, however it recognized the work of many more Georgia Tech faculty and staff—several of whom also had official roles to play at Tapia.

Professor Mark Guzdial and Research Scientist Barb Ericson, for example, helped build several of the programs that helped Georgia Tech win the award, such as the College’s undergraduate program in computational media and the Georgia Computes! initiative to bring CS education into more of Georgia’s K-12 schools. Both Guzdial and Ericson spoke in separate sessions as part of the official Tapia program (see below).

Overall, it was quite an introduction to GT Computing’s diversity for the undergraduate and graduate students who attended Tapia, which included 17 online M.S. in Computer Science (OMS CS) students traveling from around the country and the world. In all, some 57 students comprised Georgia Tech’s delegation.

In fact, two OMS CS students (one former and one current) participated in a panel with Isbell titled, “How Can Digital Degrees Make Higher Education More Accessible?” Program alumnus Miguel Morales, a 2017 graduate, joined current student Tia Pope in sharing their experiences as students from underrepresented groups.

In fact, the entire Tapia program was dotted with GT Computing speakers, including:

On Thursday evening, the College hosted a reception on campus for its Tapia attendees and Atlanta-area alumni to celebrate GT Computing’s leadership in diversity. Isbell and Stallworth both discussed the past efforts that had won Georgia Tech the inaugural CMD-IT award and gave an attendees-only preview of the exciting work that lay ahead.

“What is the role for Georgia Tech in ensuring that students at the K-12 level have equity of access to a computing education?” Stallworth said in his remarks. “How can we help all kids in the state of Georgia and beyond tap into the incredible opportunities that accompany that kind of an education?”

On Friday, several OMS CS attendees took an afternoon break from Tapia to enjoy their own personalized campus tour—for most, the first (and possibly only) opportunity they would have to see Georgia Tech firsthand.

“OMS CS has been my first online educational experience, and one worry I had was, what kind of community would I find in the program?” said OMS CS student Shipra De, who traveled from Las Vegas to attend Tapia. “The collaboration among students has been so encouraging, with many going above and beyond in their efforts to help each other. Then there’s the fact that they’re doing all this for people they’ve never met!”

“In Ecuador, there’s not as much of a culture of improvement for technical skills or software engineers, so OMS CS was just what I needed,” said Romeo Cabrera, who traveled from his hometown of Guayaquil, Ecuador. “This program has improved my life in so many ways, not just because of the technical experience—its flexibility has also allowed me time to share with my family. I can’t say enough about it.”

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Mike Terrazas