From September 14th -17th, 9 CS students and 2 CS faculty (Cal Ribbens, Barbara Ryder) journeyed to Austin, Texas to participate in the 2016 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing. Of the approximately 1000 attendees, 536 were students, 135 were faculty and 260 were representatives from industry/government. This was the 10th Tapia Conference whose theme, Diversity Matters, was reflected in keynote speeches, professional development programs, a student research poster session, a career fair, and “birds-of-a-feather” meetings on practical approaches to supporting diversity and inclusion.
Our two goals in attending Tapia were to: (i) expose CS@VT African-American and Latino/a graduate and undergraduate students to a professional computing conference in which they would be in the majority, and (ii) actively recruit minority graduate students for our MS/Ph.D. programs and for possible future faculty positions.
Dr. Ryder reported, “It was a thrill to personally meet and talk to so many African-American and Latino/a colleagues in computing, including several of our CS@VT alumni – Dr. Cheryl Seals (Auburn), Dr. Jeremy Barksdale (Microsoft), Dr. Kevin Buffardi (Cal State, Chico) and CS@VT Distinguished Alumna Dr. Jamika Burge.” Dr. Ribbens stated: “The Tapia conference is a great opportunity for our students to meet peers and hear from incredible role models, and for faculty to share ideas and enthusiasm with other schools who are also committed to improving diversity in CS.” The excitement of our student participants is expressed in their comments:
- Sean Crenshaw: “Tapia gave me the opportunity to network with the best in the tech industry who are transforming current standards so that we, the next generation of minorities, can follow in their footsteps.”
- Jazmine Zurita: “The conference was the perfect way to network with recruiters, more so than we can in standard career fairs.”
- Gustavo Arango Argoty: “The most interesting aspect of the conference was to see how big companies develop computing applications to understand society and hence its diversity.”
- Vanessa Cedeno: “Being able to meet other people with the passion of promoting and including diversity in Computer Science was exciting and inspiring.”
- Souleymane Dia: “It’s been one of the best opportunity for me to directly interact with industry leaders and connect with them for future opportunities.”
- Moeti Masiane : “The conference was a wonderful venue for networking, placing players from academia and industry in a fun and open environment.”
CS students Moeti Masiane, Tianna Woodson, Kelvin Aviles, and Teresa Lin also attended. This was a great experience. It continues a strong tradition of CS@VT participation in the Tapia conferences (we have been Gold Supporters of Tapia for many years). We hope to offer the opportunity to attend to more of our students and faculty in future years. To that end, alumni and friends of CS@VT can donate to the department’s Barbara Ryder Diversity in Computing Fund by sending a check to the VT Foundation account #861127.