Diversity in Computing Takes Center Stage at Tapia 2019

34 computer science undergraduate students and five OMSCS students traveled to San Diego, Calif. to celebrate diversity in computing at the 2019 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing conference.

Georgia Tech’s College of Computing participates annually in the ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing, and this year was no exception.

With 34 undergraduate and master’s students, and five online master’s in computer science (OMSCS) students attending, the Yellow Jackets took San Diego by storm.

The conference brought together more than 1,800 faculty, students, industry professionals, and researchers from all backgrounds and ethnicities to discuss and celebrate diversity in computing.

“As a Latina woman, I am very excited to be here and get to know other Latinas who are interested in computing. It’s fun getting to share my passion for diversity with new friends and recruiters,” said Valentina Brambila Grando, a second-year computer science major.

Held September 18-21, the conference focused conversations around its theme, “Diversity: Building A Stronger Future.” Session topics included supporting students with disabilities, broadening participation in computing, and addressing bias and unfairness in artificial intelligence (AI). The three-day conference also gave attendees the opportunity to network and interview at prestigious companies like Google, Cisco, and JP Morgan.

Charity “Alistair” Tarver, who is the first student to graduate from the Constellations Center for Equity in Computing high school program and attend Georgia Tech, was also in attendance.

“I’ve never really gotten to travel before, so it’s cool to come to a new city and hear from people I would have never otherwise had the chance to hear from. It’s been interesting to get different perspectives and find common ground with other students from around the world,” said Tarver.

A Leader in Diversity

Georgia Tech leadership, alumni, and current students were involved throughout the conference.

Dean of Computing and John P. Imlay Jr. Chair Charles Isbell helped kick off the conference as a guest for the opening fireside chat where he discussed the evolving methods of disseminating misinformation through deep learning and embedding ethics within the computing curriculum from the start. Isbell also discussed the importance of diversifying doctoral programs during a panel discussion held later in the week.

Other highlights included:

  • University of Washing Richard E. Ladner professor and Georgia Tech alumna, Jennifer Mankoff (Ph.D. CS 2001) gave one of the opening plenaries and shared her experience as a researcher and academic while also living with a disability and chronic illness. Her advice to students: “Just follow your passion.”  
  • Ayanna Howard, School of Interactive Computing (IC) chair, co-hosted a café-style panel where she facilitated meaningful discussion about the Computing Research Association Widening Participation (CRA-WP).
  • Lara Martin, a HCC Ph.D. candidate advised by School of IC Associate Professor Mark Riedl, took home the top prize for best presentation at the doctoral consortium.

Another big part of the College’s participation at Tapia is hosting a booth. As a platinum sponsor of the conference, the College of Computing hosted a booth with information on the college’s programs for prospective graduate students.

“We love coming to Tapia every year because we want to recruit a diverse group of students for our programs. It’s exciting to see them celebrate who they are and talk with them about what their experience at Georgia Tech could be like,” said Jennifer Whitlow, director of enrollment and alumni engagement.


Allie McFadden

Communications Officer