The 2018 Grace Series ended this year with its eighteenth speaker, UT Dallas Computer Science Professor, Dr. Karen Mazidi. Dr. Mazidi’s Grace Series talk titled “Discovering Your Strengths,” attracted a full room of faculty and students who were eager listen to Dr. Mazidi’s journey and learn how to discover one’s strengths while navigating through life and figuring out a career path.
The Grace Series lectures deliver insight into the role of women in today’s technology fields by having female technologists provide technical presentations. The talks aim to provide inspiration and a sense of community for female graduate and undergraduate students studying computer science and software engineering at UT Dallas.
The talks feature a wide range of speakers including UT Dallas Computer Science and Software Engineering alumni, UT Dallas CS/SE professors, as well as other distinguished female and male technologists in the field. Drs. Pushpa Kumar, Janell Straach, and Linda Morales conceived the idea of the UT Dallas Grace Series as a result of attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) Conference several years ago. The conference, fittingly named after the woman who helped pioneer computer programming, Rear Admiral Dr. Grace Murray Hopper, involves a series of presentations designed to bring research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront. Every year, GHC brings together the community of female and male technologists from academia and industry, highlighting the best minds in computing and spotlighting the contributions of women to computing. The UT Dallas Computer Science Grace Series lectures are fashioned after the GHC Conference format.
Before handing the floor over to Dr. Mazidi, UT Dallas CS faculty members Drs. Pushpa Kumar and Gopal Gupta individually delivered their opening remarks. Both commented on the importance of the series as well as the importance of female empowerment amongst the female population and most importantly among women in technology. Following the opening remarks, Dr. Mazidi began her talk by sharing information about herself, starting with how her career in Computer Science started in college when a friend dared her to take a computer science course. From there on, she went on to become a software developer, educator, and textbook author. In 2013, she decided to go to return to school for her Ph.D. in Computer Science, focusing on Natural Language Processing. Her work on her Ph.D. led to several publications in top Natural Language Processing conferences. Dr. Mazidi currently is a Senior Lecturer in the UT Dallas Computer Science Department.
During her journey, she has picked up a few rules to live her life by. These include saying yes to what intimidates you, saying no to what doesn’t challenge you, following your instincts, thinking for yourself, and speaking for yourself. During her talk, Dr. Mazidi reminded students that “some people figure out early in life what they are good at and then plan their careers and lives accordingly. But conversely, some of us may feel like we are stumbling through the dark looking for our path. That’s ok, and it might even leave you open to possibilities you had never considered.” Dr. Mazidi advised the room that “you will never discover your strengths unless you are willing to get in a “try fail” loop that does not end until you find your path.”
She ended her talk by reminding students that only you can be the judge of your success. “Women have special challenges, professionally and personally, that make career planning problematic, but a flexible attitude and openness to the challenges that confront you go a long way towards building a successful career. After all, it’s up to you to define what success means for your life,” noted Dr. Mazidi.
Since the inception of the UT Dallas Grace Series in the spring of 2015, a total of eighteen inspiring women and men have spoken, including:
- Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham, Louis A. Beecherl Jr. Distinguished Professor, UT Dallas CS Professor, and Executive Director of the UT Dallas Cyber Security Research and Education Institute (CSI)(click here for her story)
- Dr. Lily Wu, UT Dallas CS Professor and Director of the Data Communication and Data Management (DCDM) Laboratory (click here for her story)
- Dr. I-Ling Yen, UT Dallas CS Professor (click here for her story)
- Dr. Ranran Feng, UT Dallas CS Professor (click here for her story)
- Dr. Sanda Harabagiu, UT Dallas CS Professor, Erik Jonsson School Research Initiation Chair, and Director of the UT Dallas Human Language Technology Research Institute (HLTRI) (click here for her story)
- Dr. Rym Zalila-Wenkstern, UT Dallas CS Professor and Director of the Multi-Agent and Visualization Systems lab (click here for her story)
- Dr. Inga H. Musselman, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost for The University of Texas at Dallas (click here for her story)
- Dr. Jo Zhang of Fujitsu Laboratories of America (click here to read her story),
- Dr. Farokh Bastani, UT Dallas CS Professor, Excellence in Education Chair, and Director of the UT Dallas site of the NSF Net-centric and Cloud Software and Systems Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (NSF NCSS I/UCRC) (click here to read his story)
- Dr. Peggy Shadduck, Director of both the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) STEM Institute and of the Dallas/North Texas STEM Degree Accelerator Program (click here to read her story)
- Lymari Ames of Cisco Systems (click here to read her story)
- Romelia Flores a IBM Distinguished Engineer and Master Inventor (click here to read her story)
- Jill Blanchar, a Bank of America Information Security Executive (click her to read her story)
- Lisa Frey, State Farm Scrum Master (click her to read her story)
- Kimberly Snipes, USAA, VP, Chief Information Officer (click her to read her story)
- Catherine Walsh, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Loss Prevention for Johnson Controls’ Tyco Retail Solutions
- Dr. Nimmi Kannankutty, Deputy Division Director in the Division of Graduate Education (DGE) at the National Science Foundation (NSF).
- Dr. Karen Mazidi, UT Dallas CS Professor (click here to view her slides from her Grace Series Talk titled “Discovering Your Strengths”)
The Grace Series will continue next spring with more featured guests from both academia and industry.
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 2,800 bachelors-degree students, more than 1,000 master’s students, 190 Ph.D. students, 52 tenure-track faculty members, and 41 full-time senior lecturers, as of Fall 2018. 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.