This semester, the Spring 2018 Grace Series Talks featured two inspiring members of the tech community, Catherine Walsh, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Loss Prevention for Johnson Controls’ Tyco Retail Solutions, and Dr. Nimmi Kannankutty, Deputy Division Director in the Division of Graduate Education (DGE) at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Both speakers talks attracted a full room of eager UT Dallas CS/SE students who wished to learn more about their journeys as leaders and technologist who advocate for women in STEM.
The Grace Series 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, 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.
The Spring 2018 Grace Series began with Catherine Walsh, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Johnson Controls, responsible for Tyco Retail Solutions’ Loss Prevention Business Unit. Ms. Walsh delivered her talk titled “Anything I Can Do, You Can Do Better!” In her talk, Ms. Walsh discussed her unique perspective on innovation and marketing, and what it means to work joyfully. She advised students to embrace change, “I think it is important to dance with change and learn to embrace it. Throughout my journey, I can say that all of my opportunities really happened as a result of changes that took place. It is important to learn to lead change, embrace, and drive it. Choose to be a lifelong learner. Every expert started as a beginner.”
Ms. Walsh is Senior Vice President leads a global team delivering solutions to over 1,000 customers worldwide and $900M+ of annual revenue. Before joining Johnson Controls, Catherine served as Senior Vice President & General Manager of Xerox Services, responsible for the Retail, Consumer and Hospitality business unit.
The second speaker of the Grace Series featured was Dr. Nimmi Kannankutty, Deputy Division Director in the Division of Graduate Education (DGE) at the National Science Foundation (NSF). She is also a member of the federal government’s Senior Executive Service. DGE’s mission is to provide funding to support graduate students and the development of novel, innovative programs to prepare tomorrow’s leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. As the Deputy Director, Dr. Kannankutty provides oversight to over $250 million in annual funding in support of this mission. In her talk titled, “Female Scientists and Engineers in the U.S: A Story of Change & Revitalization,” she described her own journey to become an engineer and science policy analyst and shared a statistical history of women in science and engineering in the United States. While talking about her journey, she advised students to remember that every journey is not always a straight pathway and that it is important to understand and be okay with not knowing where the path will take you. She reminded students to “take risks, be open, and don’t think narrowly! Start thinking broadly.”
Before joining DGE, Dr. Kannankutty was a senior advisor and researcher at the National Center for Science and Statistics (NCSES), a federal statistical agency within NSF. Dr. Kannankutty is a national expert on the highly-skilled workforce in the U.S. As a researcher in NCSES, she was responsible for the development and implementation of a series of national surveys of the U.S. science and engineering workforce. The data from these surveys form the basis for a series of legislatively mandated reports on the state of science and engineering and on the status of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in STEM.
Since the inception of the UT Dallas Grace Series in the spring of 2015, a total of seventeen inspiring women and men have spoken, including:
- Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham (click here for her story)
- Dr. Dr. Lily Wu (click here for her story)
- Dr. I-Ling Yen (click here for her story)
- Dr. Ranran Feng (click here for her story)
- Dr. Sanda Harabagiu (click here for her story)
- Dr. Rym Zalila-Wenkstern (click here for her story)
- Dr. Inga H. Musselman (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).
The Grace Series will continue next fall 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 2,400 bachelors-degree students, more than 1,000 master’s students, 150 Ph.D. students, 53 tenure-track faculty members and 38 full-time senior lecturers, as of Fall 2017. 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.