ACM-W Connections. January 2016

Welcome from the ACM-W Chair

Welcome to the January, 2016, issue of ACM-W Connections.  Happy New Year!

I’ll be relatively brief this month.  I’m very excited to call your attention to the first report from a project we are funding in Uganda.  ACM-W funding has helped make it possible for the ACM-W chapter at Stawa University to take computers to women in rural areas, teaching women computing skills.  I think their report does a wonderful job of providing a sense of what they are managing to do, despite some very difficult circumstances, and I hope you will find it as exciting and promising as I do!

Where’s ACM-W This Month?

The first Canada-wide ACM-W celebration is just around the corner, scheduled for January 22-23, so I imagine we’ll have a detailed report in the February issue of Connections.  At last word they had to close registration as they were full to capacity, and there are several buses scheduled to bring people from across Canada. 

When you read this, I will likely be on my way to Google HQ for a summit on retention of women in CS.  Otherwise, January is a bit of a slow period for ACM-W, though there is lots of work happening behind the scenes as new communications initiatives get underway and the spring Celebration planning shifts into high gear.  Look for much more news in the coming months!

Thanks, as always, for your work on behalf of women in computing!

~Valerie Barr, ACM-W Chair

ACM-W Uganda Chapter, as captured on Saturday, December 19, 2015

It is Saturday morning in Kampala, Uganda.  Barbra Namirembe, the newly installed President of the new ACM-W chapter in Uganda, addresses her chapter members who are meeting in a dining hall at Stawa University before embarking into a van, which was provided, in part, by ACM-W’s donation.  “Ladies and gentlemen,” she opens her remarks, “we’re honored to be part of a worldwide computer movement revolutionizing computer education to women.  From what I have gathered, there are many chapters like ours meeting and strategizing how to best serve women’s computer education needs.”  During this meeting, which lasts for one hour, Barbara and her cabinet discuss the projects at hand, including sets of objectives for each village and how certificates can be awarded to women who fully go through the training.  One of the projects currently incorporated in ACM-W in Uganda is the Netiva Women in Science Institute (NWISI) at Stawa University.    NWISI conducts mobile classrooms for women in rural Uganda.   However, since the formation of ACM-W Uganda chapter, NWISI has literally been married/merged with ACM-W.  After the ACM-W meeting this Saturday morning, some of the members will arm themselves with laptops and invade rural communities to teach women basic and, for some, advanced computer skills. 

Joseph, one of the few students at Stawa University who has a driver’s license, has been driving the teaching team for months now.  Joseph is probably the only student in the world who got an academic scholarship for having a driver’s license.  Since the formation of ACM-W, Barbra and her team approached the Provost of Stawa University and requested for an academic scholarship for Joseph in exchange for his services of driving ACM-W and NWISI participants to places they need to be to carry out ACM-W objectives.   For Joseph, however, he must be careful as the streets of Kampala can make driving tough and getting out of the city challenging, the least of which not being weekend markets that see throngs of people selling and buying merchandize too close to the road, where people and goods sometimes spill into the middle of the streets, thereby literally shutting down traffic for a while.  

After leaving Kampala, the van takes the South Sudan Highway heading northwards.  After an hour on this nicely paved highway, thanks to the World Bank and IMF loans to Uganda, the van turns left on a rural, unpaved road that takes students through a series of rural trading centers, marshlands, banana plantations, valleys and hills, and, eventually, they reach Kiryamuli village where classes are regularly conducted. 
This Saturday, however, owing to the high demand for these mobile classes by rural women, the class has been shifted from happening under a mango tree situated in Maama Zamu’s front yard, a very nice, peaceful place to a rural, spacious Tarkuwa Mosque, which the local imam, in conjunction with the local chiefs, have offered to ACM-W for use.  The mosque is a step up from the mango tree, for, here, participants are offered real seats, a nice shelter in the event of rain or sunshine, and a spacious indoor environment. 

Once inside the mosque, ACM-W teachers unzip their backpacks and pull out the 3 Dell computers that ACM-W (USA) purchased for this mobile classroom project earlier this year.  Accordingly, the women are divided into four groups, one for each laptop, and the fourth group takes a rudimentary reading and writing class.  The mosque also comes with a blackboard; for this, Barbra is beside herself with jubilation: “Now the women can practice writing letters and sentences on the board, something we couldn’t afford for them before,” she tells the village Chief, who had negotiated for the mosque to be made available.   

Teaching adults computers is not easy, by any stretch of imagination.  “A four year old would be much easier to teach than a thirty five year old”, Peter, the only male volunteer on the team, tells Barbra.  In each of the three groups learning computer, women, at first, seem terrified by the computer, even though this is not their first attendance in the mobile classroom.  In one group, when asked to type something, a woman moves her index finger so slowly, as if she is preparing to touch something really hot.   In another group, one freezes, as if she just won’t touch any key today at all, although, with constant encouragement from these dedicated teachers, all the women get to learn how to turn on the computer, touch the key board, practice some exercises, and eventually move to a promising level of computer use. 

Today ACM-W chapter will leave one computer in the village, under the care of Maama Zamu, who is one of the most dedicated and excited rural student, so that other women can use it during the week to improve their skills.  Rural women often have free time between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm, after working the fields, fetching water on their heads and cooking a meal, to take extra time with the computer.  The chapter is in search of additional computers, with an initial goal of increasing the number to 25 laptops.  Now they only have 3 for a group of about 70 women. 

As the sun sets in the west, goats and sheep bleating audibly, students pack the computers, bid farewell to the villagers, who sit still as if to say teach us some more, and enter the van for a ride back to Kampala, where each one will arrive at home or their school hostel after dark.

News From ACM-W Scholarships

The ACM-W Scholarship for Attendance of Research Conferences program provides support for women students in Computer Science and related programs who wish to attend research conferences. The student does not have to present a paper at the conference to be eligible. Applications are evaluated in 6 occasions each year, in order to distribute awards across a range of conferences, with 1-6 awards given for each group of applications. The ACM-W Scholarships are made possible due to the generous support of Microsoft, Google and Oracle.

If the award is for attendance at one of the ACM special interest group conferences (SIG conferences), the SIG will most likely provide complementary conference registration and a mentor during the conference. The number of free registrations available varies from SIG to SIG.

ACM-W has helped students attend a wide range of meetings including SIGGRAPH, SIGCHI, ICDIPC, Women in Cyber Security, ACM EC, SIGCSE, IEEE Conferences, DIS, IPDPS, ICCC, ACM CHI, AAMAS, FLAIRS, WIMS, CSCW, New Interfaces for Musical Expressions, GECCO, SpringSim, and ICSE amongst others.

The scholarship exposes students to prominent researchers in their field, introduces students to new research, and excites them about doing research themselves. We ask students to share with us some of their thoughts on the conference they attended and we never cease to find truly inspiring stories:

Arooba Javed, Undergraduate student of Computer Science at Wayne State University, went to Lisbon, Portugal, in October 2015, for ASSETS 2015

“The ASSETS 2015 conference was one of the best experiences of my life. The conference started with the inspiring keynote speaker, Jon Schull, who spoke about his company, e-NABLE, which through an online community of volunteers, provides free 3D-printed prosthetic hands and arms to those who need them. Although prosthetic limbs would cost thousands of dollars, the ability to design and 3D print these limbs has made them accessible to many people.[…] My mentor, Erin Brady, was kind enough to introduce me to several of her colleagues.[…] The conference has led me think about career possibilities that I could not have imagined before. I want to thank ACM-W for providing me with the incredible opportunity to attend the ASSETS 2015 conference! It truly was a life changing experience.”

Agnes Salanki fromBudapest University of Technology and Economics, went to Aalborg, Denmark in June 2015.

“The conference program of the useR! 2015 was surprisingly mixed, as among the participants were engineers, computer scientists, statisticians, even researchers in political sciences. […]The highlight of the conference was when I met personally Mine Cetinkaya-Rundel, a statistics teacher from Duke University whose Coursera course I finished two years ago. I presented my research related to semi-supervised outlier detection on the poster session [..] After the conference, I gave a talk about my impressions in front of our local experts, the slides can be found here. I am very thankful for your support, it was one of the greatest experiences of my PhD career.”

Congratulations to the new scholars awarded scholarships in the latest voting  round in January 2016:
 E. Choo, ATidjani, P. Lee, C. Kalra, J. Pena, V. Selvarajah, F. Poursardar, S. Nam and H. Fleenor. We’re  expecting more lovely trip reports from you, young ones!

News From ACM-W Celebrations

The new year is a great time to reflect on the past and look towards the year ahead.    In the fall, six ACM-W Celebrations took place, two in Europe – womENcourage (Uppsala, Sweden) and Inspire 2015 (London, UK), two in India, AIWiC (Ahmedabad, Gujarat) and NICwiC (northern India), and two events in the US, MinkWiC (Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas) and SEWiC (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee).   Many thanks to all the organizers of these events!

In spring of 2016, we have nine confirmed events.   In January, the inaugural all-Canada event (CAN-CWiC) will take place in Ottawa.  In February and March we have four events planned including CWiC (Carolinas) and TRiWiC (Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio), CAPWiC (Virginia, Maryland, Washington DC) and PHIWiC to be held in the Philippines.   April will be a busy month with four confirmed events NYC-CWiC (New York City), CCWiC (Puerto Rico), NYCWiC (upstate New York), and SoCalWiC (Southern California).

It is encouraging to see many inquiries from people all over the world who are interested in organizing a Celebration event!    If you are thinking about organizing an event for the upcoming year (Sept 2016 – June 2017), it is time to contact us (  If you just want more information, please contact me.  I’d be happy to chat with you!

As a newbie in my role as Chair of the Celebrations committee, I am deeply grateful for the support received from Jodi and Valerie and am thankful for my committee members, Rachelle Hippler, Martha Kosa, Pallavi Meharia, new members, Alina Lazar and Kathleen Kalata and the many others at ACM headquarters who keep things running smoothly.     


  • Do you have great ideas for joint activities with schools that don’t yet have an ACM-W chapter? Do you want to encourage women everywhere to be in ACM? Then you should apply for the ACM-W Networking award!

    The application is available. The deadline is January 15 for activities that will happen in March, April, May and June.
    We’re looking forward to hearing about all the amazing activities you have planned.

  • Save the Date: womENcourage 2016 Celebration of Women in Computing, September 12-13, 2016

    In just nine short months we will be celebrating Women in Computing at Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria. womENcourage 2016 will begin on September 12 with a lively Career Fair and on the 13th we will have the keynotes, panels, and a poster session. More information will be coming in the next few weeks.

  • Apply to Attend the Heidelberg Forum

    The Heidelberg Laureate Forum was created by the Klaus Tschira Foundation, the Heidelberg Institute of Theoretical Studies, ACM, and Letters to provide an opportunity for young researchers to spend a week with winners of the Turing Award, Abel Prize, Nevanlinna Prize, and Fields Medal. To date three forums have been held (2013, 2014, and 2015), and all have been viewed as a major success by the 40 laureates and 200 young researchers in computer science and mathematics who attended each forum. Details can be found at
    The Fourth Heidelberg Laureate Forum will be held 18-23 September 2016. To be considered for the Heidelberg Forum, young researchers can either apply directly to the International Mathematical Union, and the Norwegian Academy of Science ( or be nominated by a colleague (or professor, mentor or manager) who can attest to the quality of their work. Nominations will likely carry a bit more weight within the selection process and can be made at
    but require ACM-specific credentials.  If you or a colleague would like to make a nomination, the ACM Organization Number is ACM72967.  Applications and nominations must be completed by February 3, 2016.

  • Would you like to contribute an article to the ACM-W Newsletter?
    With a distribution list reaching thousands of ACM-W members, contributing to the newsletter is a wonderful opportunity to share ideas and information across a wide audience. Submit a proposal for an article /submit.