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Nine Russ College students learned from leaders in the computing profession and networked with other female computer science students this weekend at the Ohio Celebration of Women in Computing (OCWiC).
Associate Professor of Computer Science Cindy Marling, who attended the conference, held Fri.-Sat., Feb. 24-25 near Sandusky, Ohio, said the relatively small number of women in computer science makes events like OCWiC important for building students’ networks as they enter their careers.
“Approximately 14 percent of computer science majors at Ohio University are female, which is also the national average,” she said. “So it’s helpful to be able to broaden our social and professional network.”
The conference had three components—academic, career and networking. Students attended research presentations, reviewed their resumes, heard from corporate sponsors about industry needs, and networked with other women from around the state.
“My favorite part was meeting women from all over Ohio with similar interests and passions as me,” junior Katie Baugher said. “Not only were they on or had gone down similar paths as I have, but many of these women were doing amazing things in research and development. It was so encouraging to see.”
The keynote speakers were Margaret Burnett from Oregon State University, who presented on gender-inclusive software, and Ruthe Farmer, who spoke about her experience as former White House senior policy advisor for tech inclusion.
Junior Robin Kelby said she enjoyed hearing from Burnett about GenderMag, a project that helps software developers make their products more gender-inclusive.
“People approach software through a wide range of motivations, learning styles, tech backgrounds, and attitudes towards risk, and software can be less accessible to some groups of people because of features that do not accommodate these differences,” Kelby said. “Making software more accessible leads to greater diversity of thought, which benefits the field of computer science as a whole.”
Marling said having speakers from around the country provides some of the benefits of attending a national conference without the high cost of traveling out-of-state.
“This conference is cost-effective because it’s local,” she said. “Having national speakers come to us is a plus.”
Marling was also a panelist on an academic panel for undergraduate students and served as the poster chair for the conference. Russ College research activity was well-represented at OCWiC – Marling presented on the SmartHealth Lab, which researches models for blood glucose level prediction. Graduate student Yani Chen presented her poster, “Hippocampus Segmentation Through Multi-View Ensemble ConvNets,” and Yunyi Feng, another graduate student, presented her poster, “Automatic Categorization Tool for Software Development Issues.”
Baugher said she had a positive experience attending OCWiC, where she learned how to support other women in the field of computing.
“I learned how to empower intelligent women and bring them up with you as you advance in your career, as well as the importance of encouraging and including young girls into the conversation of STEM,” she said.
Graduate student Yunyi Feng said she enjoyed receiving feedback on her own research and meeting other women interested in computing.
“I met many new people with diverse backgrounds and experience, learned from many good research talks, got feedback for my own project, and also have a better idea about my career by connecting to senior professionals in industry,” she said.
The trip was made possible by Russ Vision funds, special monies that take students beyond the classroom, created by the transformational $124 million estate gift from Fritz Russ, BSEE ’42, HON ’75, and his wife, Dolores.