Grace Hopper 2012 Inspires Women in Computing at Stevens

10/22/2012

The 11 female faculty members, staff and students from Stevens who participated in the 2012 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing called the experience “magical,” “exhilarating,” and “eye-opening.”

Held in Baltimore, Md. from Oct. 3-6, 2012, Grace Hopper is the largest technical conference for women in computing, bringing the research and career interests of female technologists to the forefront and providing unprecedented opportunities for collaboration, networking and mentoring.

“It was energizing to be in the company of 3,600 women in computing from all over the world,” said Adriana Compagnoni, associate professor of Computer Science and chair of the Presidential Commission on the Advancement of Women at Stevens. “We all benefited from it. Collectively we got job and internship offers, enhanced our networking and career options, and got exposure to vendors in the computing industry we do not normally have access to.”

Grace Hopper featured presentations by female industry, academic and government leaders who presented their research to attendees, and special sessions focused on the role of women in today’s technology fields. Lori Clarke, chair of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, presented a technical talk which highlighted the benefits of computational modeling in healthcare. Jane Margolis, senior researcher at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, described how much more needs to be done to shatter biases against women and minorities. Technical Executive and Corporate Board Member Nora Denzel’s keynote address stressed the importance of diversity in discovery and innovation.

Stevens was also represented among the speakers, with Compagnoni and Susan Metz, director of special programs in engineering education, joining former AT&T Bell Labs Researcher Elaine Weyunker to lead a discussion about mid-career crisis which had an audience of approximately 200 women.

A key part of Grace Hopper 2012 was the career fair, in which recruiters from technology companies and universities connected with attendees. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and Apple were just a few of the employers represented.

“All day long students looking for internships or full-time jobs were able to meet with potential employers,” said Stevens staff member Gabriella Cuzzola. “There were hundreds of companies and graduate schools, and each booth seemed to be better than the last one. The women were thrilled to meet the employers and the employers were thrilled to meet the women. The best part was seeing Stevens’ own Computer Science students connect with these major companies.”

Stevens student Katelyn Kasperowicz interviewed with seven companies, including Microsoft, General Electric and Lockheed Martin, and already secured a job offer from Cisco.

“It was an amazing experience that I will never forget,” Kasperowicz said.

Jenny Heffernann, another Stevens student, interviewed with Credit Suisse, Blackrock, Cisco, Facebook and Google.

“All of the companies were looking to fill Computer Science positions,” Heffernann said.

Stevens student Vishakha Sharma said she was so impressed with the career fair that she plans to attend Grace Hopper 2013 as well.

“The career fair, where more than 70 information technology companies, research labs and universities participated, introduced me to the realities of the job search, and helped me make contacts that may benefit me in my near future,” Sharma said.

Stevens even had its own booth at the career fair, where representatives from the offices of Career Development and Graduate Admissions - Cuzzola and Karen Dilsizian - recruited undergraduate and professional women to come to Stevens for graduate school and also helped Stevens students prepare for interviews.

“The booth helped increase the university’s visibility in an international community,” Compagnoni said.

Stevens student Amrita Patnaik said Grace Hopper inspired her to rethink her career aspirations.

“After seeing all of the research that students across the nation are doing, I have found a potentially new interest for research and possibly pursuing my Master’s degree in a technical field,” Patnaik said. “There are so many areas of research pertaining to Computer Science that I have been completely unaware of. I feel as though I have not only gained a new perspective on academia, but have also found a source motivation to fuel my future."

Stevens' participation at Grace Hopper 2012 was made possible by Daniel Duchamp, research professor and department director of Computer Science at Stevens, graduate student scholarships from Grace Hopper, the Association for Computing Machinery Committee on Women (ACM-W), the Stevens Office of Graduate Admissions and the Stevens Office of Career Development.