Happy Lunar New Year! You Belong @ CICS
Happy Lunar New Year! You Belong @ CICS
You Belong At CICS: Diversity & Inclusive Community Newsletter
Chinese Lion from Chinese New Year in Singapore

Happy Lunar New Year!

I want to wish everyone who celebrates the Lunar New Year peace, joy, love, and life. It is a time when friends and family wish you good luck in the new year. If you are away from family and friends at this time, know that you are not alone. Many members of our community are celebrating with you. If you are unfamiliar with Lunar New Year celebrations, consider learning more about them and how to embrace a tradition celebrated by so many people across the world.
I also want to discuss the recent increase in anti-Asian racism. Any type of racism is unacceptable and it is my hope that we can all come together in support of the Asian community.
If you are a bystander and witness an act of bias, racism, sexism, or xenophobia, and it is safe for you to do so, say something in the moment. Care for the person that experienced the aggression, then make sure to file a report using the UMass Amherst climate incident reporting tool. Reporting climate incidents that have negatively impacted you or the community provides a valuable contribution in helping to maintain the integrity and safety of our campus.
Erika Lynn Dawson Head, Director of Diversity and Inclusive Community Development
College of Information and Computer Sciences, UMass Amherst
Serena Chan

Community Profile:
Serena Chan, WICS

After taking a semester off to regroup and adjust to functioning remotely, Women in Informatics and Computer Science (WICS) is back and planning big things. The organization’s goal is to “create a community for women to have a chance to talk to each other, to meet each other, and to navigate the things that women and minorities commonly run into—in academia, school, and in the industry," says WICS Chair Serena Chan, a graduating senior.
One of the ways that WICS fosters community is through having speakers come in to share experiences and wisdom. “Alumni come back and talk about how they navigated their early careers. Professors discuss how they navigated getting a PhD, and academia in general, opening members to the wide variety of opportunities.”
As a woman in computer science, Chan underlines the need for support when taking male-dominated classes, and recalls how grateful she was to find a community in WICS that was kind and welcoming. “I'm really thankful for the previous leaders who created a solid foundation for me to build on for the past couple of years. I’m really hoping that once I graduate, WICS can continue creating these amazing ideas and bringing people together, and continuing to achieve what initially drew me into WICS. Everyone was so nice and supportive … such a great resource and great pool of people who are always comforting, and a safe haven from everything else.”
Vindhya Rachur

Vindhya Rachur: Report on Hack(H)er413 Sponsors

Last weekend, Hack(H)er413 had its third annual hackathon (fully remote this year). Vindhya Rachur, a junior at CICS, was in charge of organizing sponsors, including Liberty Mutual, Microsoft TEALS Program, MassMutual, Travelers, and Citizens. She says, “All the companies that we have had at Hack(H)er have been so accommodating, especially in the economy that we are in right now. They were able to support us financially, giving us money to throw an amazing event—which is awesome—along with providing opportunities to network with our attendees. The entire Hack(H)er413 team is so fortunate for all our amazing sponsors and we are looking forward to working with them in the years to come!”
As a former intern of Liberty Mutual, Rachur presents the company as an example of the opportunities available to CICS students. “Liberty Mutual is a company that is big on diversity and inclusion ... they just had so many initiatives going on regarding inclusivity in the workplace that I felt really welcomed.”
Rachur also highlights the workshops sponsors provided during the hackathon, including “Creating Your Personal Brand” from Travelers, “Intro to Python” and “Intro to NLP” from MassMutual, and “Crush Your Coding Interview” from Facebook. The hackathon was also sponsored by the Microsoft TEALS Program, which connects classroom teachers with technology industry volunteers with the goal of creating sustainable computer science and technology education programs.

Staff Spotlight: Zinj Guo

Zinj Guo, a senior web designer and developer at CICS, has been at UMass since his undergraduate years when he studied digital media. After graduating in 2007, Guo went on to work for the Office of Information Technology for about ten years before transferring to CICS. His responsibilities include designing and maintaining numerous websites, along with much of the communication and marketing for the college. He’s also an excellent photographer, taking many of the photographs of CICS people and settings that you may have seen in the college's communications.
Guo has spent much of his time at UMass in the Lederle Graduate Research Center (LGRC). “The running joke is that I'll never leave the LGRC. I had a lot of classes there when I was an undergrad, and when I worked at OIT, we were primarily based in LGRC. And when I moved to CICS, I was in the computer science building—but now since computer science is expanding, my office is moving back to LGRC. It's almost fate that I'll always be at LGRC.”
Guo believes that diversity is centered around respect. “There's room for lots of different ideas and the opportunities to explore and talk to other people from various backgrounds and not be confined to our own worldview. You develop respect for lots of different people.”
With Lunar New Year coming up, he won’t be able to celebrate much due to the pandemic. However, Guo, who is part of the Hakka people of China, will still be enjoying special dishes, such as stuffed tofu, with his family.

Starting Tomorrow:
Voices of Data Science

You are invited to the inaugural Voices of Data Science conference February 19–20, designed to amplify the voices of data scientists and celebrate diversity in the field.
The student organizers aspire to build a strong and inclusive network of data scientists with a shared vision to use data science for the common good. Learn more about the organizers in our previous issue of this newsletter.
Confirmed speakers include Dr. Susan Dumais, Microsoft Research; Prof. Laura Balzer, UMass Amherst; Amy Prager, ABD; Prof. Amy McGovern, University of Oklahoma; Dr. Rumman Chowdhury, Parity; and Prof. Hima Lakkaraju, Harvard Unviersity.
Group discussions will be led by Ivana Williams, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative; Prof. Maryclare Griffin, UMass Amherst; Priya Donti, Carnegie Mellon University; Katie House, MassMutual; Kasthuri Jayarajah, Singapore Management University; Simone Fobi, Columbia University; Su-Lin Blodgett, Microsoft Research; Laure Thompson, UMass Amherst; and Jigyasa Grover, Twitter.

Register now

Early Research Scholars Program

First year students at CICS—curious about research and wondering where to get started? Apply to the Early Research Scholars Program (ERSP) for early undergraduates in computer science and informatics majors. Through ERSP, you will have the opportunity to learn about computer science research, improve and apply core computing knowledge, gain skills important to your future as a computer scientist, and interact closely with the program's faculty mentors. The program aims to create a diverse and supportive community within CICS, with a particular focus on engaging students from populations underrepresented in computing, including women, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Indigenous peoples.
Apply now
(Our)Story — Cheryl Swanier

Identifying New Audiences: Localizing Social Issues in Computing

In this talk, CICS Lecturer Siobhan Meï will present an overview of a lesson that assists students in identifying a key changemaker whom they will persuade to take a particular stance or action about a real-world technological issue. Based on her belief that students with backgrounds in computing are powerful changemakers and innovators in their communities, she will guide attendees in the production of persuasive, socially engaged writing.
Monday, February 22, 10:00–11:00am

(Our)story: Cheryl Swanier

Come listen to the experiences shared by a member of our CICS community in the latest installment of the (Our)story series, where some of the important people we interact with every day share stories about their personal and professional journeys, culture, identity, and the lessons they've learned.
Thursday, February 25, 11:45am–12:45pm

Unleash Your Inner STEM

This event, organized by the Pioneer Valley Women in STEM Network and the National Society of Women Engineers, focuses on the theme of STEM Identity, with a special focus on nontraditional and community college women. There will be a panel discussion with breakout sessions on topics including identifying your strengths, networking, promoting your identity, sharing your story in professional ways, and career pathways.
Thursday, February 25, 5:30–8:00pm

Empow(H)ERment Panel

The Office of Diversity and Inclusive Community Development invites you to attend this powerful panel of women discussing their experiences in information and computer sciences. This event will provide participants with insight and best practices that can be implemented to create more inclusive workplace and educational experiences for women.
Thursday, March 4, 11:45am–12:45pm

bias Film Screening and Q&A with Filmmaker Robin Hauser

If you're human, you're biased. Now what? bias, the new film by award-winning documentarry filmmaker Robin Hauser, challenges us to confront our hidden biases and understand what we risk when we follow our gut. Through exposing her own biases, she highlights the nature of implicit bias, the grip it holds on our social and professional lives, and what it will take to induce change.
Thursday, March 18, Noon–2:00pm

ADVANCE Annual Lecture: Science in the Time of COVID and America’s Reckoning with Race

The disruptions brought on by the pandemic have forced colleges and universities to work differently. How can our reimagining lead to greater diversity, equity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine? Join UMass ADVANCE and Dr. Shirley Malcom, senior advisor and director of SEA Change at the American Association for the Advancement of Science for this ADVANCE Annual Lecture.
Wednesday, March 24, 4:00–6:00pm

What Should We Include Next?

Know someone with a great story? Or someone you just want to put a spotlight on for their great work? Here at CICS, we love being able to highlight those around us who make every day a bit better. This is an opportunity to get more involved in our newsletter by nominating a student organization or faculty/staff member to be interviewed.
Nominate someone!
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