At UT Dallas, both the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science and the UT Dallas Computer Science strive to promote a strong sense of community amongst the female student body by working with UT Dallas clubs and outside organizations to host various events that help cultivate a strong community amongst the women studying within the Erik Jonsson School.
This fall, the CS department partnered with the UT Dallas Women Who Compute (WWC) Club to host numerous activities and events geared towards the technology minded women studying at UT Dallas. The events included the Connect Inspire Guide Freshmen Tea Party, CS Women’s PhD Luncheon, WWC Dolby Labs Informational Tech Talk, WWC Cisco Systems Tech Talk and Networking Mixer, a Google: WWC Breakfast session, as well as bi-weekly club meetings. The WWC is a campus student club started by Computer Science and Software Engineering students.
During the first weekend of the new 2016 academic year, the Women Who Compute Club hosted the Connect Inspire Guide Freshmen Tea Party. Dr. Janell Straach, UT Dallas CS professor, Mary Jane Partain, Director of the Living Learning Community (LLC) at UT Dallas, and members of both the UT Dallas WWC club and LLC Staff members, joined 37 freshmen CS/SE women for an afternoon full of tea, crafting, and bonding. Together, the students, staff, faculty, and club members made their own inspiration jars – decorated mason jars filled with notes of positivity and motivation that would last them throughout the semester and give them a boost of positivity during difficult times. Students also spent time getting to know each other by drawing designs on each other in henna. Following the event, many of the girls attended a campus-wide movie. The event itself is part of the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). NCWIT strives to increase the number of women in technology and computing and to do so they hold events for female students in CS/SE for the students to be able to connect with each other and build a sense of community.
On September 23, women who are currently pursuing their PhD’s through the UT Dallas Computer Science department as well as other programs offered by the Erik Jonsson School were invited to the PhD Female Luncheon. The PhD Luncheon was hosted by Drs. Janell Straach and Linda Morales, and organized by four PhD students, Sruthi Chappidi, Junia Valente, Barbara Mukami Maweu, and Rashika Mishra.
“The goal of organizing the event was to bring together all the PhD women and give them a chance to interact with their peers and provide the opportunity to make groups and find friends for support and help throughout their PhD journey,” noted Rashika Mishra.
During the luncheon, the attendees were given a bingo exercise that worked as both an icebreaker and a way to get to know each other. The women also were asked to write inspirational messages to themselves so that in the future whenever tough times arise they would be able to pull out a message from their envelope to encourage themselves to keep going. The event itself allowed the young women to get to know each other by having an afternoon of lunch and socializing, with the hope that they would stay in contact with each other as they pursue their PhDs and beyond.
Sruthi Chappidi had this to say about the event that she helped organize, “It turned out to be a successful event bringing together all women PhD students and giving them a chance to meet and find friends as well as mentors. We received good reviews from everyone who attended and overall the event made them feel like they were apart of the CS women PhD community at UT Dallas.”
We spoke with Esther Goldstein, President of the UT Dallas Women Who Compute club about the club and what her goals are for the club and its members, “I love being an officer in WWC because I see how much our club positively affects women in at the UT Dallas CS department and the Erik Jonsson School.” She continued on noting, “Through our general meetings, volunteer events, and socials, we provide personal and professional development as well as a chance for females in the Erik Jonsson School and the CS department to connect with one another. We hope to inspire these women to stay in the field and network with each other as they begin their careers. By bringing in representatives from various companies in the area, we try to inform women about all of the opportunities that are out there for them in technology”
Dr. Janell Straach, UT Dallas CS professor and co-director of the UT Dallas Women in Cyber Security, works closely with organizations such as NCWIT, by ensuring that technology-minded women at UT Dallas have a strong community by hosting events, award ceremonies, luncheons, talks, clubs, and trips outside of the UT Dallas Campus. She was instrumental in the hosting of many of the activities within the UT Dallas CS department as well as the creation of both of the two residential camps for young women during the month of June 2015 – the NCWIT sponsored Connect-Inspire-Guide Camp for Incoming Female Freshmen and The Techy Girls Residential Camp (See story here).
This past April, the UT Dallas Computer Science Department inaugurated the UT Dallas Center for Engaging Women in Cyber Security, a new center under the UT Dallas Cyber Security Research and Education Institute (CSI). The center was founded by Dr. Janell Straach, who serves as the director of the center, and Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham, the Executive Director of CSI and founding director of the center. The goal of the center is to organize courses, seminars, and exercises in the field of cyber security for women from all over the world, as well as to provide a sense of community amongst women in technology and cyber security.
The UT Dallas Computer Science Department offers a strong community for female technologists by holding monthly talks presented by the Grace Series, where students are able to hear empowering talks from fellow female members of the tech field. Opportunities to attend events such as the Grace Hopper Conference and the Women in Cyber Security Conference are made available to students.
To view photos from each event click here.
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.