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36 Students Head Off to Houston for the 2016 International Grace Hopper Conference

This October, 36 young women majoring in computer science and software engineering and six UT Dallas CS faculty members, made their way to Houston, TX, for the annual International Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Technology (GHC) Conference. The Grace Hopper Conference is designed to bring the research and career interests of women in computing into the spotlight. The UT Dallas CS department was a conference sponsor and hosted a booth to talk to students interested in entering the graduate program at the UT Dallas CS department.

For more than 20 years, GHC has connected tens of thousands of women from all over the world, and the conference has grown in size at a rapid pace in recent years, with 15,000 technology minded women in attendance this year. The Anita Borg Institute’s Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) of Women in Computing was co-founded by Anita Borg and Telle Whitney in 1994, and was inspired by the legacy of pioneering computer scientist and U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper. The Anita Borg Institute co-presents GHC with the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM). When the conference first began it was convened every three years; now it’s every year with attendees from 83 different countries.

ghc-16-visual-theme-300x200This year’s visual theme captured the goal of fostering a diverse, inclusive environment as GHC grows to reach ever more women technologists from all over the world. The visual theme (pictured to the left) features a hot air balloon transporting technologists from all backgrounds toward a future in which the many diverse voices championed at GHC 2016 are not only heard, but are also welcomed and celebrated. The circuit board pattern represents all the ways women in technology connect with each other and their allies, even when they’re miles apart.

Yenney Hernández, a UT Dallas CS student and the vice president of the UT Dallas Women Who Compute (WWC) Club spoke about her time at this year’s conference saying, “At GHC I met many amazing female role models who told me about their stories and how they are working to make an impact in the world with their ideas and hard work. I felt blessed because every person I met made me feel like I was at the right place and that I was meant to be there.” She continued, “I will always be grateful for their encouragement. I also enjoyed talking to other Latinas who shared my passion for engineering and they inspired me to never give up even in the midst of hardships.” She concluded by saying, “The time we spent at GHC is a part of our legacy as women and I couldn’t be happier and more proud to be a part of it.”

The GHC is the world’s largest technical conference for women in computing, and for many women who attended for the first time, this was the first time that they were exposed to so many female technologists who share the same interests, curiosities, and struggles. In 2014, nearly 8,000 people attended and last year 12,000 people were in attendance. However, this year over 15,000 people attended the conference from all over the world.

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UT Dallas software engineering student, Anastasia “Stacy” Hudman had this to say about the conference, “One of the most important impacts that GHC had on me was that I was given a chance to socialize outside of school. I had the wonderful opportunity to make new friends and strengthen relationships with current friends. These relationships help provide me a sense of community and belonging. As I begin my masters in CS at UT Dallas, I know I have a whole tribe of other women who have my back.”

In order for UT Dallas CS/SE students to attend, they had to first apply for the Anita Borg GHC Scholarship. Upon completion of that step, UT Dallas CS professors Drs. Pushpa KumarJanell Straach, and Linda Morales prioritized the students based on criteria including campus involvement such as teaching at summer camps or tutoring. Subsequently, students not funded by the GHC conference were supported by departmental scholarships given by the UT Dallas CS department.

Over the course of 3 days, the students had the option of attending various workshops ranging from career presentations (e.g. ‘A Day in the Life Of’: Exploring Different Career Paths in Technology, and Getting to “Hell Yes”: Negotiating While Female) to presentations about emerging technology (e.g. Containerization of Applications: What, Why, and How and Predicting User Demographics, Emotions and Opinions in Social Networks). The presentations, panels, receptions, lunches and plenary sessions, among other programs, were categorized into eight clusters – career, organizational transformation, emerging tech/best of, open source world, products A to Z, technology, general sessions and special sessions – along with tracks and suggested target audiences, depending on the participant’s career stage.

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The students also attended a career fair while at the conference. Representatives from leading high-tech companies, research laboratories, government agencies, and universities were present. Many of the UT Dallas CS/SE students interviewed with Adobe, Amazon, Apple, Bank of America, Cisco, Groupon, IBM, Intel, Nationwide, Twitter, Verizon, Visa, and Yahoo. Many students received job offers from the companies they interviewed with including Verizon, Cisco, Nationwide, USAA, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Watson Genomic Analytics, and Medtronic.“The two interviews I had gave me an opportunity to see how the machine learning interview rounds work, as this is a new field for me,” said UT Dallas CS student, Rashika Mishra.

On Wednesday, the opening keynote talk titled, “Women and the Future of Tech,” featured joint keynote speakers Ginni Rometty, President and CEO, IBM Chairman, IBM Board of Directors, and Latanya Sweeney, Professor at Harvard University, Editor-in-Chief of Technology Science, Director and Founder of the Data Privacy Lab.  The Friday joint keynote talk titled, “Where Women Belong,” featured Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO of Salesforce, and Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States. Both of these keynote addresses were livestreamed.

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The 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing will take place next year in Orlando, Florida, on Wednesday, October 4 through Friday, October 6.

Click here to read about last years trip to the 2015 Grace Hopper Conference.

Click here to see all the photos that Stacy Hudman, a senior in SE, took at GHC’16.


On the bus ride back to Dallas, all the students were asked to write how the conference impacted them and what the conference meant to them. Below are are excerpts from what a few UT Dallas Students wrote as they reflected on their GHC experience.

Shiva Sharma, Senior in Computer Science    

“GHC brings so much positive energy together that is impossible to not be enthusiastic about women in engineering and computer science. It is the time of the year when I can just be myself because I know it’s a cohort of women who want to empower, support, and uplift each other. It allowed me to reconnect to my core values and energy that needed to be vented out. It is always a great way to learn how I can reinforce all the energy I have to do more constructive and impactful things. GHC has always provided in a unique way, an extremely conducive environment where I can discover my virtues and vices. I have a renewed sense of enthusiasm that I can use to give back to my community to make a difference in this world and to bring out the best in myself and others! I want to thank everyone who made this trip possible for us!”

Corrin Thompson, Senior Software Engineering 

“I’ve attended GHC for the past 3 years, and each year I have had such a fantastic time. Going to this conference in 2014 set a foundation for my networking and communication skills. I have grown bolder and more confident with each conference. GHC has not only given me the tools to successfully interact with companies and organizations, it has also been the greatest place to learn about the true breadth of applications of computer science, and get a better feeling for what path would best fit me by talking with the women who have been working in these fields for years. I have been able to speak with several security professionals and get an understanding of where I want to specialize and what companies/organizations best align with this goal. Not only that but GHC provides a sense of community, which is difficult to feel at the university level since most of my peers are male. When I went to GHC in 2014, it meant the world to see so many women in CS who were able to interact with me in a manner that made me feel much more comfortable. This year, I returned to GHC as someone with a range of experiences and as someone who is able to offer advice to people from all over the world. I hope I am given the privilege to attend during my graduate year next fall, so I can talk more in depth about the fast track program at UT Dallas and meet with more talented women.”

Anupama Boppana, PhD Computer Science student

“The Grace Hopper conference really boosted my confidence and inspired me to achieve great things in life. There are so many women from so many different backgrounds and their work, willpower, and determination motivated me in many ways. I learned that I should not keep making any more excuses to myself for not being able to achieve something. Everyone has 24 hours per day and depending on how we utilize it, we will reach great heights!”

Anastasia “Stacy” Hudman, Senior in Software Engineering 

“I had a lot of fun at GHC, but most importantly I gained confidence in myself and my abilities. There was a lot to learn from the security talks and I left with new skills and interests. I attended several speed mentoring sessions and gained insight on how different people ended up in the cyber security field. The career expo gave me the opportunity to learn about different companies and national labs across the country. The keynote talks were very inspirational and encouraging.”


ABOUT THE UT DALLAS COMPUTER SCIENCE DEPARTMENT

The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 2,100 bachelor’s-degree students, more than 1,000 MS master’s students, 150 PhD students, and 86 faculty members, as of Fall 2016. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.

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