Trip report: Days 1 and 2 of Grace Hopper

Greetings from Tucson!  I’m sure Tucson is a lovely, lovely city….but I’ve been so busy that I haven’t been able to do anything beyond enjoying the desert and mountain views through the hotel windows every day.  That’s the thing about the Grace Hopper Conference:  they sure do keep us busy!

As always, being here is such an incredible experience.  This year the conference once again broke attendance records:  over 1600 attendees!  And nearly half of them are students.  Think about it:  1600 technical women all in one place at one time.

It’s been a very busy 2 days.  Here are some of the highlights so far, by day:

Day 1:  Wednesday

This year, since we’re hiring, I decided to go for the full first day so that I could attend the PhD Forum in the morning.  These are technical talks given by students who are finishing up their PhDs.  I was blown away by the research I saw!  CS, I have seen the future, and it is interdisciplinary.  Highlights:  a machine learning talk that was so excellent, it almost made me want to change my field; and a talk by a student from New Zealand basically on the same topic as my Comps group’s project.  (I spoke with the speaker, Andrea Schweer, at length afterwards, and she gave me some excellent tips and resources to check out.  Thanks, Andrea!)

At lunch, I ended up sitting next to someone who is from Haifa….my husband’s hometown.  I should note that I often meet people at conferences and other random places who are from Haifa.  Small world, indeed!

The afternoon’s schedule had some workshops sponsored by CRA-W, with tracks for undergrads, grad students, and early career researchers.  Highlight o’ the day:  I got to hear Justine Cassell, who’s done incredibly creative and interesting work, speak—she is amazing.

The evening of the first night is always the poster session.  I meant to just drop in and drop off some flyers, but ended up staying the whole time.  There was so much interesting research represented!  And again, a good percentage of it was interdisciplinary.  Weirdest moment:  I saw someone who was basically doing the topic I did for my Master’s degree, only she’s exploring the same topic for 4G networks.  When I worked on the topic, it was for the analog cell network!  How times have changed in 15 short years.

Day 2:  Thursday

There are always a bunch of welcoming talks the first day.  During these speeches, the Anita Borg Institute unveiled a new promotional video called “I am a technical woman”:

(Update:  Forgot to mention that the footage for this was shot at last year’s Grace Hopper.)

Then it was time for the keynote, by Megan Smith, VP of New Business Development at Google and General Manager of  All I can say is WOW, was she great.  She talked a lot about technology as the great equalizer, and spoke at length about the importance of bridging the technology gap (and bringing more Internet connectivity!) in Africa.  A powerful message, and she is clearly very passionate and very committed to following through on this goal. (Fun fact:  she and I share the same hometown:  Buffalo, NY.)

I went to one session in the morning about best practices in teaching intro CS.  There, I learned about a version of team-based learning, or problem-based learning, specifically tailored to CS, called Peer-Led Team Learning.  I think this might be a better fit than straight-up TBL, and am wondering if I could try this out in 111 this winter and/or spring.  The panel also talked a lot about the value of pair programming and hands-on problem solving, both of which I do in my intro course, so it was nice to get that affirmation.  I also attended an interesting panel on interdisciplinary research.

In the afternoon, I saw 2 excellent speakers.  Martha Pollack, Dean of Michigan’s School of Information, was supposed to talk about her work in assistive technologies, but instead gave an excellent talk about the importance and challenges of doing CS research “outside the box”.  Manuela Veloso, of CMU, gave another highly entertaining talk about her work with robots, which was peppered with humor, candor, and insights about work-life balance and effective mentoring practices.  We have got to get her out to Carleton to speak!

As always, I met up with a lot of cool and interesting people today.  While I am usually very good at meeting new people at conferences, I have to say that the best meetups and conversations always happen at GHC, and today was no exception.

Tomorrow is another full day, and includes the annual Systers lunch and the sponsor parties.  Looking forward to it all!


One thought on “Trip report: Days 1 and 2 of Grace Hopper

  1. Hey, I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog!…..I”ll be checking in on a regularly now….Keep up the good work! 🙂

    – Marc Shaw


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