Celebrate Women's History Month :: You Belong @ CICS
Celebrate Women's History Month :: You Belong @ CICS
You Belong At CICS: Diversity & Inclusive Community Newsletter
Erika Lynn Dawson Head

Women's History Month

Happy Women’s History Month to all persons, inclusive of all genders! The contributions of women to our world are immense and creative. After watching the NASA Perseverance rover land on the surface of Mars, I think back to women like Barbara Paulson, Katherine Johnson, Helen Ling, Mary Jackson, Mae Jemison, and countless others who have helped us explore new frontiers and explore our galaxy. I also think of women like Christa McAuliffe and Judith Resnik, who made the ultimate sacrifice to further the scientific exploration of space and whose perseverance expanded opportunities for women everywhere.
My hope is that you will take an opportunity to explore and celebrate the accomplishments of women in computing and STEM and become an ally in achieving equity for women and gender-diverse people. It is very disappointing that, in 2021, there is still a need for legislation like the Lilly Ledbetter Act and the 1963 Equal Pay Act, or that, less than a week ago, a U.S. Senator would attack a Cabinet nominee for being trans on the floor of Congress.
On a brighter note, the number of women enrolling in CICS programs has been increasing every year. The image of computing has been changing over time and broadening to include more identities, while our gender diversity has been increasing and becoming more visible.
I invite you to join me in honoring Women’s History Month by engaging in fruitful conversations about women in history and computing with your fellow students and co-workers. Here are some places to get started:
Erika Lynn Dawson Head, Director of Diversity and Inclusive Community Development
College of Information and Computer Sciences, UMass Amherst
Emily First

Community Profile:
Emily First, CS Women

As the co-chair of CS Women, a student organization for women graduate students in computing at UMass Amherst, Emily First has been working to build and foster community. During the pandemic, she has worked to ensure that the members of CS Women continue to socialize through virtual events like their weekly tea sessions.
"People come and we just chat or we play board games online. We really like Code Names and Pictionary, things everybody can do together and relax and meet people." First also notes the value of these events in fostering networking opportunities. "This is an opportunity to make some connections and potentially get some support from other members."
CS Women is currently planning to organize a panel to introduce members to other people who may have finished their graduate degrees or are in the late stages of their graduate degrees. First is also interested in ideas from the community, saying, “If there is an event that you'd really like to see happen, I would say really reach out to us, reach out to me specifically, and we could work together to make that happen.”
Vindhya Rachur

Wrap-Up: Voices of Data Science

The inaugural Voices of Data Science conference, which took place February 19–20, had a great turnout, with the student organizers doing a stellar job executing the conference after months of planning.
Neelima Jyothira, an undergraduate student at UMass studying computer science with a minor in linguistics, was in charge of the speakers and sponsors team and moderated the “Navigating the World of Data Science” panel. In regards to future conferences to come, Jyothira hopes to expand their audiences. “We’re definitely going to continue the momentum for next year, when it will be in person, and make it more of a generalized event. AI, machine learning, and data science are becoming relevant in so many different fields."
Apurva Swarnakar '21MS, a recent master's graduate in computer science who led the logistics team, put in an enormous amount of work around the day-of-event logistics and efficiently managed the virtual conference platform, including promptly responding to a Zoom-bombing attack they experienced on the first day. The highlight of the event for her was the student poster session, where students were able to present their work. Swarnakar notes that there were many different people from different backgrounds that attended the event, saying, “There were a wide range of people who were there ... I met a person who was working in nursing. She came to talk to one of the speakers because her work was related to that. Another person was an entrepreneur. We were shocked, since our social media was all targeted to our peer group like students.”
Parul Gupta '20MS, another recent master's graduate in computer science, led the communications team, and was the creative mind behind the website and swag initiatives. The highlight for her was seeing that over 100 participants attended the event. Gupta looks forward to expanding the inclusive appeal of the conference even further in the future, saying as an example, “I'm looking forward to the day, where instead of calling it Women's Day, we would call it Women and Non-Binary or Womxn Day.”
Neha Nayak Kennard

Student Spotlight:
Neha Nayak Kennard

Neha Nayak Kennard is a third-year doctoral student in computer science at CICS. Since 2018, she has enjoyed working towards making the CICS community more inclusive through work as a CS Women co-chair, organizer of the Machine Learning and Friends Lunch (MLFL) talk series, and Community Outreach Student Team (COST) co-chair. She is a self-proclaimed “word nerd,” and is delighted that her doctoral work in natural language processing (in particular, understanding conversation structure in order to improve the process of scientific peer review) allows her to indulge in her favorite pastime of thinking about words all day.
This Women’s History Month, Neha is thinking about inclusive seminars. She says, “For the last few years, MLFL has worked towards ensuring that at least 50 percent of our invited speakers are women. This can be hard for a machine learning series, but has led us to find out about interesting (but often underpublicized) research, and to bring these innovative researchers to CICS. I’ve learnt about the benefits that students gain from seeing successful researchers who look like them. Going forward, we are working on being more intersectional and ensuring that we are cognizant of racial diversity in our speaker series. We’re also interested in learning more about the mechanisms that lead to inclusive seminars, and the effects they have on speakers' and students’ careers. I'd love to hear any thoughts or opinions on this topic; please don't hesitate to reach out to me to chat!”
Matthew Rattigan

Faculty Spotlight:
Matthew Rattigan

Matthew Rattigan, teaching faculty at CICS, has spent his career jumping between academia and industry, with experiences in politics and consulting. Now, as he teaches two courses, COMPSCI230 and COMPSCI383, he focuses on getting to know his students, although remote learning makes it more difficult. “It's really hard to connect, especially now that we're remote. Those 10 minutes before and after class can be amazingly important to get to know students a little bit. In Zoom world, that just doesn't seem to happen. So that's been a big change. But I'm really looking forward to a day—hopefully soon—when things will be different.”
As a faculty member, Rattigan speaks highly of his students, valuing their presence in the classroom. In his position, he hopes that he will be able to support them in continuing their academic and professional journeys. “I really see my work as, how do we make sure that this is for everybody? And how do we make sure that those students [who are] coming into the field can see themselves here, no matter who they are?”
Alicia Clemente

Staff Spotlight: Alicia Clemente

Alicia Clemente, Director of Advising and Student Success, manages the advising office for the college. Clemente also sits on the CICS Diversity Committee. “We really try to be conscientious about everyone in our community and how we're including them ... how we're supporting every student as individuals and as a group."
Clemente strongly emphasizes her interest in providing support for students. “Any time any student has a question or wants to celebrate success, I always want them to remember that their advisors are here for them. It doesn't matter how small, they can reach out and talk with us about anything. Our job is to be a support and be a cheerleader and point people in the right direction if they're experiencing a challenge."
Throughout the pandemic, Clemente has spent her time balancing work and home life while running and mountain biking.
Logo - Science for the People

Making Science Work for Social Justice

On April 10 from 3:00–6:00pm, trainers from Science for the People will lead a discussion for the Truth School exploring the principles of "solidarity science’" and what it means for our community. They will present a few examples that illustrate how solidarity science solves problems by recognizing the significance of social, political, economic, and cultural contexts and by inviting many people and types of knowledge to the table.
Participants will workshop how to use solidarity science to address the issues in the community, and how we can make science a public good. At the core of solidarity science is a focus on reaching multiple experiences and understandings to solve problems. Our audience is asking how to demand more from the scientific community, how to create a coalition, how to listen to each other better, and how to critique the role of science in our lives. Rather than asking, “How do we fix this,” participants will learn to ask, “Who do we need at the table to fix this?”
Register now
CICS students at Tapia Conference

Tapia Conference 2021:

Call for Participation & Scholarships
The CMD-IT/ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing conference is the premier venue to acknowledge, promote and celebrate diversity in computing.
Call for Participation: CMD-IT invites submissions for workshops, panels, and birds of a feather sessions. In addition, they invite students to submit for the Tapia Poster Competition and the ACM Student Research Competition. Doctoral students and candidates are encouraged to submit to the Doctoral Consortium. Submissions are due March 31, 2021.
Student Scholarships: The Tapia Conference provides travel scholarships for students and postdocs. Scholarships include conference registration, meals during the conference, hotel accommodations, and a reimbursable travel stipend. Applications are due March 31, 2021.
Apply for scholarships
Participants at workshop

CMD-IT Academic Career Workshop

Mentoring activities are critical for successful promotions in the professoriate. The goal of this workshop is to provide career mentoring to assistant and associate level faculty, senior doctoral students, and postdocs in computing. This NSF-funded workshop from June 13–19 invites participation from the following communities: African Americans/Blacks, Native Americans/Indigenous, Hispanics/Latinx, and People with Disabilities.
The workshop will include panels of diverse senior faculty on:
  • Tenure and promotion process
  • Launching a research program
  • Effective teaching strategies
  • Promotion to full professor
  • Effective strategies for proposal writing
  • Affinity Research Group Model for effect research teams
The workshop also includes a panel of representatives from different funding agencies and mock proposal review sessions to provide significant insights into proposal writing. Applications are due March 31, 2021.
Apply to participate
Logo - BWEC

Black Women in Engineering and Computing

Black Women in Engineering and Computing is a newly-formed student organization at UMass  Amherst to build community and provide mutual mentorship among the growing population of graduate and undergraduate Black women across the College of Engineering and the College of Information and Computer Sciences.
Register to join

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 workplaces and educational experiences for women.
Thursday, March 4, 11:45am–12:45pm

(Our)story — Madalina Fiterau Brostean

Come listen to the experiences shared by Dr. Madalina Fiterau Brostean in the latest installment of the (Our)story series, where community members share stories about their personal and professional journeys, along with their cultures, identities, and lessons learned along the way.
Thursday, March 11, 11:45am–12:45pm

Math at Top Speed: Exploring and Breaking Myths in the Drag Racing Folklore

In this special presentation, Richard Tapia uses his mathematical training to answer the following two basic questions from the drag racing folklore: 1) How does a “slow” car beat a “fast” car? 2) What does the dragster acceleration profile really look like? The study of the first question leads to The Fundamental Theorem of Drag Racing.
Wednesday, March 17, 6:30pm

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 documentary 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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