The New York Celebration of Women in Computing 2021 (NYCWiC’21) was held virtually on April 9-10, 2021. Organizers used a combination of real-time interaction through Gather, Zoom, and Slack. Over 200 students, faculty and industry representatives registered for this conference which included welcome remarks from Lt. Governor Hochul, a poster session & career fair, research talks, workshops and community events. After a year of zoom calls, the organizers wanted to give attendees a space to rest their eyes and brains and offered sessions on well-being in the pandemic, yoga, and a maker event with 3D printed spinner rings and paper airplanes.
Boxes of goodies includes snacks for the poster session, late night game night, and coffee talk and sponsor swag, plus the maker event materials were sent ahead of time and attendees were told not to open until NYCWiC. We did a community un-boxing which many people found delightful and quite fun.
Keynote speaker Doris Conti, Vice President, IBM Public Cloud Release Manager, spoke about her journey and gave recommendations to attendees on how to succeed. One tip was to find your “girl gang” which prompted one attendee to create a GroupMe for whoever wanted to join and many of the attendees joined immediately so they could carry through the support of the group beyond the conference.
We held a question and answer session with Jen Oneal, Executive Vice President, Development, Blizzard Entertainment. ACM-W Chair Jodi Tims joined us for the session and led an informative and interesting discussion about Jen’s non-traditional path through game development.
The conference utilized a platform called Gather.town. UAlbany student Andy Xu built a multi-room world with rooms named after famous women in computing, a video arcade, and a beach. The platform is proximity-based, so as avatars got closer, they could see and hear each other, much like in a “real life” setting. It also utilized zoom so when you entered certain rooms, it would take you into a zoom session for the actual presentations. The career fair, networking and poster session were held entirely in Gather with small group discussions and easy navigation from one booth or table to another.
Slack was also used to facilitate discussions, submit raffle tickets, share slides, and cultivate a sense of community. The Slack space will stay open.
With all the technology underlying the event, a class of 40 UAlbany interns assisted the organizers by working at an info booth, managing Slack, sharing information and being Zoom captains. Savanah Crouch, graduate student from the MS in Information Science program at UAlbany managed the extensive raffle with prizes provided by sponsor SUSE. Conference organizations included Jennifer Goodall, University at Albany, Conference General Chair; Caroline Buinicky, Emma Willard School, Program Chair; Chris McEvoy, Velan Studios, Registration Chair; Pablo Rivas, Baylor University, Budget & Sponsorship Chair; Catherine Parker, University at Albany and Cynthia Worrad, Career Fair Co-Chairs; and Michael Leczinsky, University at Albany, Technical Chair. Marketing and promotion support offered by Quinn Miller, Velan Studios.
The team is planning to offer an in-person NYCWiC in April 2022 at the Fort William Henry Hotel in Lake George, NY.