ACM-W North America News
Like everyone, we are asking ourselves questions about the coming year. In particular, we have had lengthy discussions about how best to support and enable ACM Celebrations and ACM-W Student Chapters in North America during the 2020-21 academic year. This also means looking at events related to the move to virtual spaces and asking ourselves how we can use this as an opportunity to bring more Celebrations and Student Chapters to women.
Our answer? We are still working on some of this, including looking at regional areas that have never held a Celebrations or formed a Student Chapter and using virtual means of supporting them. However, we do know a few things. One, existing Student Chapters have already begun to move to virtual spaces, like the University of Oregon’s Women in Computer Science chapter. This spring, they used the move to online meetings to invite UOregon and WiCS alumni, Sierra Battan, to discuss her engineering role at Nike.
Similarly, Arshia Khan, Associate Professor of Computer Science, decided to launch the first virtual Celebrations in North America for the Women in Computing Celebrations at University of Minnesota Duluth (MinneWIC). They condensed the 1.5 day planned Celebrations to 6 hours on a Saturday, with guest speakers and students sharing their research.
As we continue to consider how we can support you with Celebrations and Student Chapters, please feel free to reach out. In the meantime, we plan on announcing some new goals for helping Celebrations and Student Chapters grow in regions that are presently underserved by ACM-W.
ACM-W North America volunteers are the best! We are committed to celebrating, advocating, promoting, and supporting women in tech. Care to join us? We are in particular need of volunteers outside of the United States. If you live in North America and have experience with communications (e.g., interviewing, editing, preparing social media) or advocating for minoritized women, we would love to hear from you. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome to the newest ACM-W Student Chapter, Marymount University ACM-W Student Chapter in Virginia! Shout out to Rama Najib, the inaugural chair for the Chapter, and the faculty sponsor, Diane Murphy (Professor and Department Chair, IT, Data Science, and Cybersecurity). Thank you both for your time and commitment to in supporting women studying computing!
Student Spotlight: Erica Smith
What’s it like to pivot to online learning as a CS major? Erica Smith is a student from Richmond, Virginia. She is a Sophomore at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (NCAT) State University, pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Computer Science. She is the ACM-W president for the NCAT chapter the 2020-2021 school year and a 2020 Google STEP intern.
How did you come to computing? What was the “spark” that made you know you wanted to be involved in computing?
I was first exposed to computing through Hour of Code in the eighth grade. This inspired me to sign up for an HTML/CSS course for the following school year. I remember, on the first day of class, we had an in-depth discussion about what a computer was and how they work. I found this conversation enthralling and I knew that I wanted to learn as much as possible about this field.
What is the biggest obstacle you face right now?
The biggest obstacle I face right now, is the current pandemic. Like many other people, I had to leave college early to come home, and since then, I haven’t been out much.
Doing school and work at home has been a constant battle of maintaining motivation and staying positive. I like to keep my spaces very separate, at school for learning, workplace for working, and home for relaxing. Now that they’ve been blurred, shifting headspaces for tasks has been difficult.
To maintain positivity, I just try to see the light at the end of the tunnel, knowing, that one day, things will get back to normal.
What things is your university or is your ACM-W chapter doing to address COVID-19 and keep interaction going?
Like most colleges, my school shut down their campus in March and sent everyone home. Since then, they’ve been regulating communicating to students about developments within the state and likeliness of campus opening for the upcoming fall semester.
Our ACM and ACM-W chapter has been keeping in contact with members of our organization through Slack, giving regular updates and sharing remote opportunities for this summer.
What are you most excited about right now in what you are doing or in computing?
Right now, I’m most excited about my internship at Google. I just started May 18th and I’ve already learned so much. It’s not the experience I thought I would be getting because of COVID-19. I’m making the most of the situation and I know I’m in for a very informative and compelling summer.
What’s something you learned that you’d like to pass along?
Always ask questions.
When it comes to school, jobs, and regular life, there will always be someone around that is willing to help and answer any question you may have.
There is no such thing as a stupid question. I had to learn this in quite a frustrating way. This past fall semester, I was stuck trying implementing a feature of a major programming project for three hours. I decided that I would go ask my teacher about it the next day. After asking my question, I was able to wrap up the entire project in about an hour. Since then, I have asked my teachers, mentors, or peers whenever I get stuck so I never have to repeat that experience.
What advice would you give to a young student in computing to be successful?
Never doubt yourself and your abilities.
I’ve done plenty of that myself and it harms more than it helps. If computing is truly a field you’re interested in, pursue it. Never think that you don’t belong in this field, because you do.