Computing for All Promoting Diversity at CSE, Nebraska
Jan 26, 2017 By Victoria Grdina
Last Thursday, Computing for All hosted a free showing of “Hidden Figures” at the Lincoln Grand Cinema. The screening sold out in five minutes with double the number of expected students in attendance. The success of the event has Computing for All’s members excited about what’s ahead for their group this year.
Computing for All is a chapter of ACM-W, the Association for Computing Machinery's Council on Women in Computing. ACM-W is a national organization that aims to advocate for women in computing and their inclusion in the technology industry.
“I had always noticed the diversity issues. You notice it right away when you’re in a computer science class and there are only five women,” said Rebecca Dahlman, a senior computer science and business student.
After returning from the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing two years ago, Dahlman and a few other conference attendees were inspired to form their own chapter of ACM-W at Nebraska. But this group of students wanted its message of diversity to expand beyond women and include everyone in computing.
“We wanted to focus on more on general diversity,” Dahlman said. “We want everyone to be involved...this is a problem that affects everyone.”
Computing for All is now a registered student organization with about 30 members. The group holds weekly meetings to discuss tech, diversity, and upcoming events. It also distributes a weekly newsletter full of opportunities to spread its message or get involved in the community.
“Computing for All’s focus really is making people in computing understand that they belong,” said Ann Koopmann, academic and Computing for All advisor. “What I think Computing for All does very well is educating...I’ve noticed extreme initiative in the leadership of these young college students.”
As the group grows, it hopes to hold more events like the “Hidden Figures” showing and last spring’s “Sit with Me” event. “Sit with Me” was part of a campaign created by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) inviting students to “sit with” and support women in technology by sharing their personal stories. Both events were open to all students on campus.
Computing for All hopes to spread its message off campus among younger students as well. Last year, a few of the group’s members participated in the family-friendly Hour of Code, hosted a workshop for Girl Scouts, and presented at three Lincoln junior high schools. Dahlman said seeing women like her thriving in their careers at the Grace Hopper Conference encouraged her to pursue her professional goals, and she hopes to empower younger students with that same message of motivation.
“It’s very inspiring to see that these people are where I am, or were at one point, and these are the awesome things they did,” Dahlman said. “And if they can do it, why can’t I?”
Computing for All meets once a week and invites all students to become members. Meetings are held Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. in Avery 28G, or the Ada Room. Students with questions or an interest in joining can email the group at firstname.lastname@example.org.