Trip report: GHC 2016

I’m writing this post on the plane ride home from Grace Hopper on Friday afternoon. Unlike previous years, I escaped the conference early: a compromise with my kids since I was at a conference last month and will be at a workshop next month. Still, it feels like I managed to squeeze about 10 days into 3, so while on one level I’m sad to be missing the last keynote and tonight’s party (and dinner with Carleton folks present and past!), on another level I’m just done with conferencing.

It’s been several years since I’ve done a proper conference trip report — I used to do them semi-regularly (see here, for example), but in the past few years life’s gotten in the way. But I wanted to honor my time at the conference this year, so I’m resurrecting the trip report tradition.

I should come clean first, though: After last year’s conference, I swore up and down that I wasn’t going to attend this year. I’m not a fan of Houston (sorry, Houston!), and logistically last year was kind of a pain. Plus I knew I wanted to attend Tapia and wasn’t thrilled about going to 2 conferences so close together. But then I was tapped to be Posters Co-Chair, and it sounded like too good of an opportunity to pass up. And then since I was going anyway, I agreed to speak in the CRA-W early faculty career track and volunteer in the Student Opportunity Lab. On top of that, I had my LACAFI booth organizing/setup/wrangling duties.

Apparently my conference motto is: If you’re going to attend, be busy!

The days and weeks leading up to the conference were busy: working with my co-chair to select and assign ACM Student Research Competition (SRC) poster and finals judges; working with my co-presenter on our slides and role-play scenarios for our CRA-W session; stressing over whether we had enough people to cover the booth during the Expo hours. (This year a lot of our usual booth-staffing suspects took GHC off, either because they were at Tapia and/or they’re going to SIGCSE. We missed you, intrepid volunteers!) Then there were receptions and breakfasts and meetups to keep track of. I actually had to put everything on my calendar and set multiple alarms so that I knew exactly where I had to be and when. It was looking very likely that I was not going to make it to any sessions that I was not leading or speaking at, so I didn’t even bother to look at the program.

To add more excitement to the mix, I realized a few days before the conference that my constant desire to sleep and my low-level ever-present funk was not due to recovering from the marathon I had just run, but was in fact my depression flaring up. Good times. I was worried, because I knew I’d have to be “on” a lot of the time I was at GHC, and was starting to dread going. I decided to give myself permission to skip out on anything that was not absolutely necessary if need be, to be a hermit when I needed to, and to escape the conference when possible, to recharge and try and keep the depression at bay. I’m happy to say that my strategy worked, and I was able to cope and function at a decent level. The knowledge that I was leaving the conference early also helped. This meant that I didn’t seek out people I knew to the extent that I normally do, but it was worth it for self-preservation.

I arrived in Houston on Tuesday afternoon, along with what felt like half of the 15,000 attendees of the conference. I was hoping to have some time to relax before attending the HP Inc reception as an NCWIT member that evening, but a longish wait for my luggage and a taxi meant I had enough time to quickly unpack and then head to the reception. The reception was at a really cool place, and I spent a lot of time chatting with someone I haven’t caught up with in a while. It was weird to be at an HP reception, given my former life as an HP Labs post-doc, but it was neat to hear about what HP’s up to now and to share stories about my time there. All of the HP women there were so friendly and welcoming, and it was a lot more fun than I expected.

I skipped the keynote on Wednesday morning, sadly, to set up our LACAFI booth. I had to get more creative than I intended with our limited space, but I made do. Once the Expo opened, our swag disappeared quickly, so we’ll definitely have to bring more next year.

I knew that the afternoon/evening would be crazy full, so I escaped the conference for a while to recharge and grab some cheap Tex-Mex food. Once the Expo opened, I came back to check on our booth, then wandered around the Expo. I kept running into alums, which was awesome. I promised some of them I’d find them later, a promise I did not keep. (Sorry, alums! Nice to see you briefly, anyway!) I also randomly ran into my posters co-chair, whom I’d never met in person, so we chatted for a bit. She is awesome, and I hope I get to work with her again someday.

Wednesday afternoon was the poster session and the first part of the SRC. Hilarity ensued (only hilarious now in hindsight) when the first poster judges came back to tell us that they could not find the poster numbers we assigned them — turns out we had posters listed by submission IDs, but they were actually numbered by position in the hall, and there was no easy mapping between them. Whoops! Luckily our judges did not revolt, and were super patient as we figured things out. (We joked that we gave them an encryption problem to solve before they could judge the posters.) Judging took way longer than we expected, but we finally figured out the finalists from the judges’ scores and got that info to our awesome ABI contact. At this point, my co-presenter for the CRA-W talk showed up so we could go over our slides and plan for our talk the next morning, after which we headed to a reception for CRA-W scholars. The reception was a great end to the day, but I was totally wiped afterwards, and collapsed into bed as soon as I got back to my room.

Thursday morning began with our CRA-W talk on balancing teaching, research, and service in academia. The talk was way better attended than I expected given the early hour and intended audience. And the role-plays we planned (my co-presenter’s idea) were a hit! The audience was game to participate, asked great questions, and offered great tips and advice to each other.

Afterwards, I met up with my colleague David, who was wrangling the students this year, and chit-chatted about sabbatical and department stuff. While I’m really enjoying sabbatical, I do miss the day-to-day encounters and conversations with my colleagues, so it was nice to reconnect. I then escaped for a bit to recharge, then headed back to the Expo to snap up some swag for my kiddos and chat up some people at the booths.

Thursday afternoon was as tightly packed as the previous day. We had the undergraduate and graduate SRC finals back-to-back, one of my duties as posters co-chair. The talks were fabulous and our judges were simply amazing and thoughtful. (One of my regrets for missing the Friday keynote is that I was not able to see these six incredible finalists receive their awards.) My co-chair and I then headed to one of my favorite annual events, the NCWIT reception. I met new people and caught up with some colleagues from liberal arts schools, took a picture with the rest of the CRA-W speakers, and got to hear a surprise speech from Megan Smith, the US CTO, who stopped by the reception. I always love what Megan has to say, so that was a fabulous treat. By this point, I was exhausted and my brain was mush, so I again collapsed (after stopping for gelato on the walk back to my hotel — priorities!) as soon as I got back to my room.

Friday started early with the CRA-W scholars breakfast. I sat with my posters co-chair; a colleague I see every year at GHC, SIGCSE, and NCWIT’s Summit; and some very enthusiastic students. If I have to be at something that early, it’s worth it when the conversation is that fabulous. I then went to an actual conference session (on motherhood in academia), then volunteered at the Student Opportunity Lab talking to students about how to get into undergraduate research, in somewhat of a speed-dating format. One last check of the LACAFI booth and the handoff of exhibitor’s credentials and I was on my way to the airport and back towards home.

My relationship with GHC has definitely changed over the years. While I think the conference is now way too big and way too career-fair focused, and while I think these are detrimental changes, I’m still surprised by the ways in which the conference rejuvenates me. What I get out of the conference now is very different from what I used to get out of the conference, and changes every year. This year, I definitely felt like my role was to mentor and give back to the community, but in giving to others in this way I was immensely fulfilled. I networked less, but felt more fulfilled by the interactions I chose to have. This year’s conference reaffirmed that GHC does still hold relevance to my professional life — maybe not on an every year basis anymore, but definitely within a rotation of conferences.

By the numbers

As chair, I spend quite a bit of time with numbers of various sorts. There are budget numbers and enrollment numbers. There’s the number of sections of courses per term and per year. Relatedly, there are FTE numbers, or how many warm bodies do we have to teach courses and how many courses are they teaching at any given time….you get the idea.

At this time of year, when sophomores declare their majors, I hyper-focus on numbers related to the sophomores. This includes the number of students who’ve declared as computer science majors, the difference between the size of this year’s class and the previous few years’ classes, the percentage of women and underrepresented minorities, and the “yield” from certain courses, among others. Looking at these numbers gives me the opportunity to assess the state of the department on a mini-scale: a quick way to determine if we’re where we want to be and heading in the right direction.

In many respects, our numbers are excellent. My quick and possibly inaccurate sampling of the usual suspects indicates that we are now the largest department on campus in terms of majors in the sophomore, junior, and senior classes (tied with Biology), and that we have the largest number of majors in the sophomore class (followed by Biology and Economics, who if memory serves are tied). At the time of this writing, we have 50 majors, which is right in line with the past 2 classes (55 in the current junior class and 54 in the current senior class). I suspect we will stabilize in the mid-50s once the double majors declare—there are some omissions from our current list that I’ve already talked with about double-majoring, so I am just waiting for them to come to me with forms in hand at some point over the next few weeks.

There is one number of which I am insanely proud: I taught a first-year seminar in the fall of 2013 on Human-Centered Computing, and 7 of the 16 students in that course (who are now sophomores) declared as computer science majors. I was hoping for a good yield from that course, but frankly I was stunned at just how high the yield was! What an argument for the importance of teaching courses outside the major sequence. (Note to self: remember this when putting together the 2016-17 schedule!)

There are some numbers that concern me. Our major population is diversifying, but we could definitely be doing much better in this regard. Also troubling: after 2 years of 30-35% women majors, our sophomore class is just 20% women. Again, these numbers might creep up a bit once the double majors declare, but the percentage is not going to change significantly.

The decrease in the percentage of women has me pondering the possible reasons. Has there been a culture shift in the department? Are we doing something differently in Intro or in our “first-tier” required courses (data structures, math of CS, organization and architecture) that we weren’t doing 3-4 years ago? Are the larger class sizes off-putting more to women than to men? Are there things that we’re neglecting to do, now that we’re swamped with students, that we used to do, to foster community? (For instance, I used to send short, personal emails to Intro and Data Structures students encouraging them to take more CS courses, but I don’t always remember to do that to the same degree as I did in the past. What effects does this have on retention in the major?) In short, what’s changed?

Another factor I pondered on my walk across campus to class today: what effect does having senior faculty teach some of those “key” courses have on recruitment and retention? Now, we have a vibrant cohort of assistant professors and visitors who are doing a fabulous job, and many of them are teaching those key courses. But I think it’s important, for many reasons, to have us old fogies the senior, tenured folks at these entry points, too. And that’s the problem: we are so busy and so over-committed as a senior group that we’re teaching many fewer courses. For instance: There are 4 tenured professors in my department (2 full, 2 associate). The normal teaching load per tenure-track professor is 5 courses a year (2-2-1 or some variation). So among us, we should be teaching 20 courses. Next year? We are teaching 11. One person is on sabbatical all year, one is essentially teaching half-time because he was elected faculty president, and two of us have a course release (me for being chair, another colleague for chairing a large campus committee). And two of us are leading senior capstone groups as one of our “courses”, which means that we’re teaching 2 fewer “classic” courses. And because of scheduling and expertise constraints, with maybe 1-2 exceptions we’re teaching all upper-level courses.

So what are my take-away points, after this navel-gazing romp through the numbers?

  • We have a vibrant department. Our enrollments are healthy and strong, and this is translating into majors. And our majors are awesome—I’m very excited about our newest class!
  • We need to continue to prioritize “outreach” in terms of first-year seminars and similar courses. It’s definitely worth it, even it if means offering one fewer course for our majors per year.
  • We need to take a closer look at our culture. I’d like to informally talk to students to get a sense of what’s happening “on the ground”. In particular, I want to chat with the leaders of our 2 student groups, particularly our Women in Computing group, and our SDAs (student departmental advisors) and get their thoughts on what we’re doing well and what we might do differently.
  • Similarly, we need to individually look at what we’re doing as faculty to encourage our students to explore computer science, and make sure all those best practices we’ve honed over the years are still in play.
  • Frankly, I’m not sure what to do about the overcommitted senior faculty issue. I sense this issue is not going to go away anytime soon—to be honest, I’d be shocked if one of us old fogies is not tapped for an administrative post in the next 3-5 years. But are there ways we can work with the faculty affairs committee, for instance, to ensure that we can both serve the college *and* staff our courses appropriately? (For instance, could this committee check with departments before allowing a nomination for a major campus position to move forward, to make sure they are not inadvertently causing a staffing crisis for that department? In short, could opportunities be timed better for *all* parties involved?)

The CS department is a totally different place now than when I first arrived. We worked hard as faculty to grow what we hope is a welcoming, open, fun culture. I am confident that we can continue this moving forward, but just as it took lots of energy and commitment to get us here, so too will it take energy and commitment to keep us here. I hope we’re up to the task.

Male allies, trusting the system, and tone deafness at GHC

Every year, I look forward to attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. I enjoy being in a space with so many other talented technical women at all stages of their careers, from students to CTOs, where I can network, meet new people, meet up with old friends, hear about some cool research, get advice, and learn new things. One of the aspects I most enjoy is the “safe space” aspect—it’s nice to be in a space where I am not “other”, where women’s voices are heard and cherished.

When I first looked at the program a couple of weeks ago, I noticed an increased male presence on the program. Which, ok, fine, involving men in the discussion about diversity in tech (or the extreme lack thereof) is in theory an excellent idea, and can be done well and thoughtfully in practice. But there are many, many ways in which these conversations can be executed poorly, and I’ll admit to some trepidation about some aspects of the program.

Unfortunately, these conversations at Grace Hopper were executed poorly, with a level of overall tone deafness that I find astounding. (I’m not surprised at the tone deafness itself, but rather at the level of tone deafness exhibited.)

First, there was yesterday’s Male Allies panel. Full disclosure: I did not attend this talk, but you can read about it in all its spectacular train wreckiness. One of my students showed me a filled out Bingo card from the event. The only positive thing I can say is that at least the most egregious things on the card were not checked off, but other than that….ugh. If these are our male allies, then we’re in big, big trouble.

But wait, there’s more! This morning’s keynote promised “Satya Nadella [CEO of Microsoft] in conversation with Maria Klawe [President of Harvey Mudd College].” In reality, it was “Maria Klawe [the flippin’ President of Harvey Mudd College, let me remind you!] Asks Satya Nadella Questions from the Twitterverse.” Yeah. It wasn’t all a train wreck, I suppose. Until Satya made a comment about how women should trust the system and not ask for raises. Yes, that’s right, women in tech, if you just work hard enough then the universe will recognize your contributions and you’ll get your due, so don’t make a fuss and put your head down and get back to work, sweetie!

Yep. Tone. Deaf.

Frankly, I am disheartened, and most of all disappointed, in the Anita Borg Institute and the program committee. Is it important to involve men in these discussions? Yes. Is it important to have panels on male allies? Absolutely. But for the love of all that is good and holy, let’s make sure that those allies actually act like allies and have a clue. Let’s make sure those discussions don’t continue the stereotypes and tired tropes. Let’s get people who actually know what they are talking about, who follow and promote best practices, who don’t put all the burden/blame on women (and who understand the very real consequences that women experience when they do choose to speak out and speak up), and most importantly, who know their blind spots and are willing to listen and learn and improve.

Let’s let Maria Klawe and Satya Nadella have an actual, substantive, and frank conversation about how the culture in tech is not all that it could be and discuss concrete ideas for how that might change. Let’s have women on the male allies panel, or better yet, have a male allies workshop and better equip men to be effective allies. Let’s vet these things better, for pete’s sake!

Please, just please, organizers of GHC, let’s not have a repeat of the train wreck this year. I expect much better from you.

This is not an Ada Lovelace Day post

October was gearing up to be a great month. It started with the always fabulous, always inspiring, always rejuvenating Grace Hopper Conference, which was here in the Twin Cities this year. (4800 technical women in one venue! Can’t get much more awesome than that.) Then earlier this week was Ada Lovelace Day, a day in which we’re all supposed to share stories of women scientists, engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists, etc—essentially, reminding the world that women have and continue to contribute great things to these fields. I’ve always found Ada Lovelace Day inspiring and was looking forward to working up a (belated) post this year.

But sometimes the world has a way of kicking you in the gut. And that’s certainly what this week has felt like in the science/tech blogosphere.

For those of you not following along on Twitter or in the blogosphere, a quick recap:

  • Danielle N. Lee, biologist and blogger extraordinaire, turned down a request to blog for free on Biology Online. In response, the blog editor who sent the request called her an urban whore. As if that’s not bad enough, she posts about the incident on her blog (hosted by Scientific American), only to have Scientific American take the post down for shady and shoddy reasons (and a shifting story). Eventually the editor was fired and Dr. Lee’s blog post reinstated.
  • Several stories emerge about Bora Zivkovic, a highly influential person in the science blogging community, as a harasser of women. Bora resigns from the ScienceOnline (the conference he co-founded that brings science bloggers together) board. (update: also resigns from Scientific American, as more allegations come to light).
  • Twitter and the blogosphere erupt with stories from women and men about sexual harassment and microagressions, at once heartbreaking and, unfortunately, familiar.
  • I become aware of a certain unsavory tumblr. I refuse to link to it here, but let’s say it rhymes with “mop fleck lemminism”, and it’s peddling a lot of the same sexist bullsh*t that’s been running amok in the tech field lately (and forever).

Early on in my career, whenever I had a really bad day (or week, or month), I would cope by doing one of two things. I’d either compose my resignation letter in my head, or I’d come home and declare “That’s it, I’m not advising any one else to go into this stupid, stupid field.” (Yes, I tend towards the melodramatic—why do you ask?) There’s been a lot of that going on in my life this week. I’m demoralized, I’m saddened, and I’m furious. I’m reminded of my own experiences with harassment over my career, and sickened that this type of stuff is still happening and that the same sort of victim-blaming and gaslighting and minimizing of experiences I’ve experienced is still going strong. The last thing I want to do is think shiny, happy thoughts and write shiny, happy stories about women in science and tech, because I’m reminded of just how toxic both science and tech can be towards women.

But there is some good coming out of all this mess and yuckiness. Because people are talking. People are sharing their stories and experiences. #ripplesofdoubt is hard to read, but it’s trending strong on Twitter as I write this, and it’s so, so important to read and digest. The science blogging and tweeting communities are actively talking about this. Talking about privilege and power. Talking about allies, and decency, and what we should do when a “good person” behaves “unexpectedly”. Talking about what trust means, and safe spaces, and the power of listening, really listening. Not shying away from the tough questions and discussions. Just talking.

I had a conversation with my husband last month in which I told him about an unsettling story I heard about an interaction between a student and a professor, a typical microaggression. He said something like “I can’t believe that happens!” I looked at him and said, “What are you talking about? Of course it happens. It’s happened to me many times.” Now, my husband is a feminist and I consider him an ally, and yet he had a very real blind spot about this. My statement shocked him. I’ve thought about that conversation many times this week, about the importance of continuing to talk and educate even though it feels like we’ve been talking and educating forever.

We as a community need to keep talking, and telling our stories. The shiny, happy, Ada Lovelace Day ones and the ones we’d rather forget ever happened. We need to name names, too. This is how we bring to light what’s really happening. Most people, men and women, in science and tech are good people who want to do the right thing. Our stories hopefully help them begin to see beyond their privilege, and hopefully empower them to start asking “what can I do? how can I help?” I know that’s not nearly enough, but it’s a start.

The annual obligatory pre-Grace Hopper Conference Post

Eight.

That’s how many Grace Hoppers I have attended, counting this year.

I joke every year that the more Hoppers I attend, the fewer Hopper sessions I attend. That is certainly true this year. While I’ve done a somewhat decent job in my work life and my personal life this year in terms of curating my commitments, I’ve apparently not done the same thing with this conference. I’m definitely overcommitted, although each of the things I’m committed to are worthy and fun in their own right:

  • I’m on a panel! (Hence the badge.) I get to talk about what it’s like to be a faculty member at a liberal arts college, with some powerhouse women as my fellow panelists. (Seriously, I got imposter syndrome just reading their bios!). The presentation looks like it will be a lot of fun and we’ll hopefully have plenty of time for Q&A. (11:45am Thursday, MCC 200 H-J.)
  • I am also on the posters committee and will be judging the student research competition on Wednesday evening (6:30-9, MCC Halls B-C). I love the poster session and I love talking to up-and-coming researchers, so this will be a lot of fun.
  • My NCWIT Academic Alliance duties continue on the recruitment and engagement front. We’ll have our usual reception for faculty (Thursday evening, 6:15, MCC 205 C-D). In addition, my co-team leader Doug and I will be in the NCWIT lounge Thursday and Friday afternoon demoing something new that we’ll be rolling out to Academic Alliance members soon (if you were at the Summit, you saw an early version of this). Look for the lounge and look for us there!
  • I’m helping staff the LACAFI booth. This year LACAFI’s a silver sponsor, which hopefully means our booth will be somewhat easy to find. Stop by and say hi when you find us!

This year’s conference is special. It’s in our backyard, practically! We have the biggest group in Carleton history going: 13 students, 3 faculty, and at last count at least 4 alums. (I’m sure there are plenty more, so Carl alums: If you’re reading this and will be at Hopper, email, tweet, or DM me! We’d love to get together with you and we have something planned, even.) It will be admittedly a bit weird to have the conference in our fair city, but not losing a day to travel is definitely a nice bonus.

Timing-wise, the conference is ideal this year. Recently I’ve had a series of borderline-demoralizing, unbloggable encounters that alternately have me feeling like I’m shouting into the wind, or I’m a fish way out of water. I need to recharge my batteries, and Grace Hopper always does that for me. I don’t know if it’s the energy or the speakers’ passion or seeing colleagues from other institutions or just the sheer joy of not being the only or one of few women in the room. Probably all of the above. Whatever it is, I need it this year, badly.

If you’ll be there, I hope to see you! If not, you can vicariously experience the conference through my tweets—assuming I can find some time to tweet. Grace Hopper, here we come!

 

Role modeling starts early

Grace Hopper in front of the UNIVACI have a t-shirt from Grace Hopper 2010 in Atlanta. The t-shirt (I believe it was the one from Google that year) has the famous picture (shown here) of Grace Hopper and the UNIVAC.

Recently my daughter started asking me “who is the lady on your shirt, Mommy?” when I wear the shirt. Usually I just say “That’s Grace Hopper. She was a famous computer scientist.” Yesterday she pressed me for more info, so I explained a bit more about who she was, how she was one of the first computer programmers, etc. I showed her the clip of Grace Hopper on David Letterman. During this whole exchange, my son sat nearby, listening intently.

Later that afternoon, as I picked my son (who’s not quite 3) up after his nap, he took a good long look at my shirt, pointed to the picture, and said as clear as day, “Grace Hopper.”

Now where did I put that Ada Lovelace shirt….?

NCWIT Summit 2013 trip report

ImageThe 2013 NCWIT Summit wrapped up yesterday, and as always it was time well spent. This is my 4th NCWIT summit, and my 3rd as a member*—Carleton joined, I believe, in 2011. It’s always great to see old friends and colleagues from other schools and these summits are always in great locations (this year’s setting, in Tucson, was especially nice). But the main draw, of course, is that I learn so much and take so many ideas back from these summits, year after year after year.

There was so much that went on at this year’s summit, but here are a few of the highlights from my perspective:

  • NCWIT is big on “best practices backed up by research” and so every year we hear from social scientists on relevant research (stereotype threat, implicit bias, etc). These talks tend to be very powerful, and this year was no exception. On Tuesday, David Neal spoke about disrupting habits, and how our habitual self combined with familiar surroundings can make even the best intentions from the best people go awry. (He used a great study to illustrate his point, in which people in a movie theater setting would eat stale popcorn in rather large quantities, even moreso than fresh popcorn if memory serves. Here, the theater is the trigger to eat popcorn, even if the popcorn is yucky.) This of course has implications for changing attitudes and culture in STEM: even if your entire organization is on board, if your cues are the same and the environment hasn’t changed, you’ll keep doing what you’re doing, pretty much subconsciously. Food for thought…er, no pun intended. Wednesday’s plenary featured Carol Dweck, who spoke on fixed vs. growth mindsets (i.e. do you believe that intelligence is something you’re born with or something you can develop?) and how fixed mindsets can not only harm learners, but basically have the same effect as stereotype threat. It was an amazing talk, and one of her last slides was the most powerful. She showed that the more a field believes that “raw genius” is required for success (*cough* CS *cough* Physics *cough* Engineering) rather than effort, the fewer female PhDs the field has. It’s definitely made me think about ways I can give feedback to my students….and to my kids, too….that will help them adopt a growth mindset. (Hint: Focus on the process, not the outcome.) I also loved her anecdote about the Chicago school that swapped out their F grades with “Not Yet” grades, and what effect that’s had on the students *and* student achievement.
  • Speaking of plenaries, Michael Schwern, Perl developer extraordinaire, gave a truly fascinating (and often depressing) talk about his own experiences in open source, which has a notoriously dreadful diversity record. He had some great insights about how to talk about privilege with people who don’t want to hear about privilege, and in general about getting the conversation started with people who don’t want to or don’t feel the need to have these conversations. He also brought up Nóirín Plunkett, technical writer and open source contributor extraordinaire, who spoke in very real and very raw terms about her (often awful) experiences in the open source community. This was one of the more powerful talks I’ve seen recently, and unfortunately shows just how far we have to go still to broaden participation.
  • Capitalizing on last year’s wildly successful flash talks, this year also featured flash talks, and they did not disappoint. Funny, touching, poignant, funny….did I say funny? Awesome.
  • This was my first year as a project team leader, and so I got to see things from “the other side”, as it were. Our project team (recruitment and engagement) was very busy this year, running 2 sessions during the Academic Alliance meetings. We rolled out a new goal-setting initiative (our big project this year!) and kicked it off with a great panel featuring three institutions that have done some really neat things with NCWIT seed funds and resources. They were inspiring and frank. And we also got to have breakfast with the newest Academic Alliance members, which is always fun. In general, it was interesting to see how the decisions the co-chairs and project leads made about the summit in the months leading up to the summit played out (mostly fine).

I head back home today, full of new ideas and new contacts and a renewed sense of optimism about what we can accomplish. And as always, I’m already looking forward to next year’s summit!

* Genius move: I went to my first summit in Portland in 2010 as a guest (the regional women in computing conference coordinators were brought in as guests that year), and of course the whole thing was so fabulous and I learned so much and promptly went back to my institution and said “We need to be a part of this.” Smart recruiting move, NCWIT!