A record number of graduate and undergraduate students from the UChicago Department of Computer Science traveled to Houston last month for the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration, the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. Over 30 UChicago students attended tech talks, panel events, a career expo and onsite interview hall, meeting fellow women studying and practicing computer science from universities and industry around the globe.
The trip was the second year that a UChicago delegation attended the conference, which is named after the computer programming pioneer and Naval officer. As in 2017, students were funded through grants from the University of Chicago Women’s Board obtained by the UChicago chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery Council for Women (ACM-W), with supplemental funding from the Department of Computer Science and the Masters Program in Computer Science.
Students who attended the conference said that the experience was exceptional for networking, job opportunities, exposure to new areas of computer science, and creating feelings of inspiration and inclusion.
“Grace Hopper has been one of the best experiences of my college career,” said Isha Mehrotra, a fourth-year student and President of ACM-W UChicago. “Not only has it provided me with a sense of belonging within tech, but it has allowed me to explore new areas of computer science and meet women from different backgrounds with similar interests.”
Other attendees praised the conference for connecting students to career readiness resources, job interviews, and internship possibilities. In addition to the career fair, mentoring sessions allowed students to directly interact with women in academic and industry computer science positions.
“The career fair was extremely useful in terms of connecting students to internships and full-time opportunities,” said Wendy Li, a third-year student. “Almost all of the women I talked to either had gotten an internship offer from the conference or had at least one interview already set up with a company.”
“GHC could be a life-changing experience for me because it is my first time to truly understand the importance of diversity and inclusion in tech,” said PhD student Yi Ding. “I hope to bring back fresh ideas and perspectives that could benefit women in computing in UChicago CS.”
In addition to the UChicago student delegation that attended the conference, UChicago CS also organized a booth that provided information to prospective graduate students and waived application fees. Hank Hoffmann, an associate professor of computer science who accompanied the UChicago delegation, said that representation at the conference was especially important for the future of the department.
“As computer scientists tackle more and more diverse problems, we need more and more diverse perspectives on life and people from different backgrounds who will bring a different approach to these really tough problems.” Hoffmann said. “I think by showing up at events like the Grace Hopper Celebration, it shows that we’re committed to building a modern computer science department in every sense; not just through research, but through making sure we include as many perspectives as possible.”