Inspiration at Grace Hopper Conference

October 21, 2013

For a small, liberal arts school, Harvey Mudd College enjoyed a big welcome this month at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Minneapolis.

“It seemed like everyone was talking about Harvey Mudd and our success recruiting and supporting women,” said Colleen Lewis, assistant professor of computer science, who coordinated this year’s conference trip. “Recruiters approached students wearing Harvey Mudd clothing, and many were asking about the pedagogy at the College.”

The conference featured prominent women in technology, including leaders in industry, academia and government. President Klawe served as a keynote speaker and a panelist, and she also participated in a plenary session that explored how women in computing can develop their own vision for the future. Lewis presented a talk as part of the conference’s academic track.

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Themed “Think Big. Drive Forward,” the event included sessions on wearable computing, mobile technology and big data. Speakers also offered career advice such as how to build a professional network, start a research program or find a dream job.

Participants discovered the variety of careers available in computer science and met role models actively involved in research and industry.

“When I had the chance to meet several of the speakers, I realized that they are a lot like people I know—even a bit like myself. They are regular women doing extraordinary work,” said Maddie Hansen ’15, a joint computer science and biology major. “Suddenly, my dreams don’t seem so far away anymore.”

Sessions that resonated with Hansen included a talk on how augmented reality might change how people interact with landmarks and a presentation on prosthetic retinas by neuroscientist Sheila Nirenberg. “It’s amazing how we can harness computational power to understand how our bodies work and develop treatments that help people. The experience was very educational and it made me excited to do computational research,” she said.

Harvey Mudd College began taking groups of female students to the Grace Hopper Celebration as part of a concerted effort to increase the number of female computer science majors. Twelve female students and three male students attended the inaugural trip in 2006.