College of Computing Students Find Community at Grace Hopper
A group of 55 College of Computing students celebrated women in computing for the 24th annual Grace Hopper Celebration, Sept. 26–28 in Houston, Texas.
Organized by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology and the Association for Computing Machinery, the three-day conference is the largest gathering of women technologists in the world with more than 20,000 attendees this year. Academics, industry partners, and students come for the technical and professional development panels, mentoring sessions, and a career fair where companies and universities recruit.
The College of Computing had a strong presence with 24 undergraduates, six master’s students, five Ph.D. students, and 20 online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMSCS) students in attendance.
Many prominent faculty also represented the College, including Executive Associate Dean Charles Isbell, School of Interactive Computing Chair Ayanna Howard, and School of Computer Science Associate Professor Ada Gavrilovska. Howard co-led a session on professional branding, Building Your Professional Persona, during which she gave five tips on how to network better.
As a platinum-level sponsor, the College had a booth for prospective students run by Office of Outreach, Enrollment and Community and faculty. A College scholarship enabled many students to attend, from those just starting their academic careers to those looking for what comes after. First-year student Salina Nihalani took advantage of the technical panels to help her focus her studies.
“I would definitely recommend attending as a freshman because sometimes you aren’t sure about what you want to study, and it’s a great way to gain exposure to research areas you may not know,” she said, taking a particular interest in artificial intelligence thanks to the conference.
Fourth-year Dina Kozlov is graduating this semester and was looking for jobs at GHC, where she found a lot of opportunity without the downsides of competition.
“Everyone is so nice that it doesn’t feel like a competitive, aggressive space,” she said. “We’re all just here to make the world a better place.”
Yet for OMSCS students, it was a chance to do a different type of networking. “It’s been exciting because it’s the first time I’ve met people from the program in person,” said Anne Chepkeitany, a first-year OMSCS student, who traveled all the way from Nairobi, Kenya, to attend.
It also lets students put the classes in context. “It’s neat to hear keywords I’ve learned about in class on the machine learning panels,” said OMSCS student Kate Reading.
Yet for many students, what mattered most wasn’t sessions or career opportunities, but the chance to be around by so many women in their field.
“I wanted to be surrounded by empowering women,” said fourth-year Devany Sandoval. “Hearing their side of the story reminds me that I have a good support system.”