CSE Students Attend Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

CSE students Amanda Swearngin and Megan Vokal attended the 2011 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.
CSE students Amanda Swearngin and Megan Vokal attended the 2011 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

Three students from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, including Amanda Swearngin and Megan Vokal, attended the 2011 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in early November. The four-day conference was held in Portland, OR, and consisted of sessions that examined the challenges that women and other minorities face in the field of computing. Nearly 3,000 people were in attendance, most of them women.

At the conference, Vokal and Swearngin attended a variety of sessions featuring keynote speakers. “The sessions covered topics such as public speaking, applying for grad school, negotiating job benefits, and creating a startup,” said Vokal. The favorite speaker of both Swearngin and Vokal was Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. Swearngin said, “It was so cool to hear the story of how she came to work in computing, and the advice she had for women in the field...to not be afraid to be outspoken and voice their opinions among the men they are working with.”

Vokal and Swearngin agreed that the opportunity to network was a very valuable component of the conference. “Women in computer science often feel very outnumbered at their individual schools, so this is a very good chance for them to meet other women in computer science and feel that they are not alone,” Swearngin said. Vokal added, “During a poster session where researchers presented their work, I was able to exchange contact information with several women whose research related to my own interests.”

Swearngin first attended the Grace Hopper Celebration in 2010. “My advisor, Myra Cohen, graciously helped me with funding to attend this year as well,” Swearngin said. Vokal attended the conference on a scholarship she was nominated for by a Microsoft recruiter. Vokal stated, “The scholarship, which was sponsored by Microsoft, provided money for travel, hotel, and food, in addition to registration for the conference itself.”

Both Swearngin and Vokal encouraged interested students to apply for scholarships. Swearngin said, “The scholarship is very easy to apply for. There are also several other companies who fund their own scholarships that you can apply for outside of the main conference scholarships. Facebook and Google offered a scholarship to attend that also included a free trip to their headquarters.” Vokal also suggested that students look for other types of funding, saying “Many students at the conference were able to receive partial funding from their universities by talking to faculty members interested in promoting diversity…[or] by working as ushers during keynotes and the opening and closing sessions.”

Swearngin emphasized the value of the Grace Hopper Celebration, saying, “The conference has already helped me tremendously. Being able to network with other attendees, I have made many important contacts that will continue in the future. I have also made friends at other schools who I still communicate with. Attending sessions at Grace Hopper has given me more confidence in myself as a woman in computing.”

For more information about the annual Grace Hopper Celebration, visit http://gracehopper.org.