Saying Good-Bye to Communications Co-Chair Bettina Bair

Bettina Bair
ACM-W Communications Co-Chair

Our ACM-W Communications Co-chair, Bettina Bair is stepping down this month. Newsletter Editor, Taneea Agrawaal, interviewed her by email to hear about her experience and plans for the future.

TA: Thank you for your service as ACM-W Communications Co-Chair! Can you tell us about your experience as the Co-Chair?

BB: Absolutely! Honestly, it has been a great experience.  One of the things I love about ACM-W is how open everyone has been to new ideas and ways of operating. 

Initially I shared the position with Sarah McRoberts (Hi Sarah! Are you reading this?).  When we started we agreed that our mission would be to amplify the accomplishments of the women of the ACM-W.  We wanted to help tell all the stories that reflect the beautiful diversity of ways to be a woman in computing. 

We also felt it was important to create some frameworks to make it easier for chapters and celebrations to talk about ACM-W.

TA: What were your main responsibilities and achievements in this role?

BB: Because Sarah was a grad student at the time, and her research related to social media, it seemed to make sense for her to take the lead on developing our communications in that area.  I took on responsibility for the website and graphic design assets. We split responsibility for the newsletter between us. 

In the first year, I tried to really focus on developing graphics and physical assets to support our members who represented us at conferences.  I also tried to consolidate information on the website in ways that made sense for me. Sarah and I put together an editorial calendar for the newsletter, so that we would have meaningful content and contributions from all of our projects and regions each month.

ACM-W Sticker Sheet – graphic designed by Bettina Bair. Available for free to ACM-W Chapters via Chapter Admin Portal

TA: What were the key challenges you faced in this role, and how did you overcome them?

BB:  Well, that first year, we were really productive.  I made a lot of graphics for swag and posters and the newsletter content was great.  Sarah was starting accounts for us on Twitter and Instagram. 

And then, it was 2020. When COVID19 hit, a lot of planned activity was paused. It was hard to find things to do as a communications chair when everything was so quiet.

I learned from Valerie Barr (previous ACM-W Chair) that Mt Holyoke College had a student internship program where the college would pay interns to do projects for non-profits. So that long sad summer of 2020, I partnered with Amelia Cole, and recruited three interns from Mt Holyoke to help redesign the website.  

As the weeks went by, the project turned into more of a mentoring situation.  Amelia and I started giving lessons on UX, devops and web technologies. All summer, via weekly Zoom meetings. In the end, we did get a really good idea of what the website should look like. And although that summer was difficult for a lot of reasons, getting together with Amelia and the interns every week to do something new and useful was really uplifting.  Shout out to Aurora Vo, Prachi Mulmi and Saman Bhat!  Pandemic Interns, FTW.

TA: You had a very active role in shaping the ACM-W Newsletter and Website. How have these two changed over time and where do you see these going?

BB: Thank you! 

Well, after having so much fun with the Mt Holyoke interns, I got funding to do another summer internship project in 2022.  This time I spent the summer working with Kayla Fang from Stony Brook University to see how we could improve the newsletter process. Thanks to her hard work we now have an app that can aggregate posts and articles from our blog and format them for html formatted emails. 

The other big improvement has been the expansion of our communications team to include a dedicated Editor (that’s you, Taneea!) and a website manager, Chandra Burnham. It’s been so nice to have you two on board, along with my new co-Chair, Cigdem Sengul. The new team has a great enthusiasm for this work and tremendous expertise. 

The biggest improvement to the newsletter in the past year has been an increase in content and frequency of publication. You have curated and edited some really great stories every month, from award winners to webinars.  Every newsletter publication is a genuine treat to read.

Chandra has done a similarly excellent job overhauling and polishing the website.  While you can see a lot of her work on the style and layout of the pages, she has also been working hard on the backend to keep all of our code up-to-date and in compliance with WCAG accessibility recommendations. 

In the future, Cigdem will be adding more news from our regional committees to the blog and newsletter. There is a ton of great activity in India, Europe and North American to share.  The website will continue to evolve.  We have started to look closer at our analytics and there will be improvements to the site navigation and organization that result from that. 

TA: Finally, while we feel a tinge of sadness as you move on from this role, we are genuinely thrilled for what’s coming! Would you like to tell us a little bit about what’s next for you?

BB: I think I will always be doing something with ACM-W.  I started the Ohio State University Student AChapter of ACM-W in 2003, and I started the Ohio Celebration of Women in Computing in 2005 and after that I never really stopped finding ways to work with this organization.  

That said, retirement enables me to be a bit self-indulgent.  So I expect that there will be a bit more travel, more art and more time enjoying the outdoors. And maybe a bit more ACM-W in a small and local sort of way.  Stay tuned!

Bettina is leaving, but you could be the next ACM-W Communications Co-Chair!

ACM-W (ACM Women in Computing) is seeking applicants for the next Co-Communications Chair. Come and be the voice of an organization supporting, celebrating, and advocating for women in computing around the world.

Responsibilities will be running and cultivating our social media channels and building out programs of your design to continue to grow ACM-W’s collaboration with chapters, regions, and broader ACM.

This is a volunteer, remote, part-time position requiring 10+ hours a month, monthly committee meetings,  quarterly virtual leadership team meetings, and one 2-day face-to-face meeting each year. The assignment is for a two-year term. 

See our post for more information and instructions on how to apply

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