CISters in Portland

Last November the Uni­ver­sity pro­vided funding for eleven stu­dents to attend the Grace Hopper Con­fer­ence, an all-​​women com­puter sci­ence event. The con­fer­ence was held in Port­land, OR and attended by nearly 3000 pro­fes­sional, aca­d­emic and stu­dent com­puter sci­en­tists from across the country.

A few weeks ago I met with Melissa Xie, the pres­i­dent of both CIS­ters (Northeastern’s women in com­puting club) and the North­eastern chapter of ACM.

According to Asso­ciate Dean Doreen Hodgkin, Xie has turned CIS­ters into a thriving resource for the CIS com­mu­nity. She has orga­nized stu­dent teaching pro­grams in the Boston Public schools and work­shops for  Girl Scouts troops to learn internet safety.

CIS­ters was founded in 2004 with the goal of raising money to attend the Grace Hopper Con­fer­ence. Under Xie’s lead, they finally got there. According to Xie, Hopper was a pio­neer for com­puter sci­ence and the con­fer­ence is a cel­e­bra­tion in her honor of female com­puter scientists.

Xie and her fellow stu­dents attended career fairs and net­working events, research talks and poster ses­sions. But the format and all female atten­dance also allowed for work­shops on being a woman in a male dom­i­nated industry.

It was very exciting and so cool seeing so many other women. Each person we met was more impres­sive than the other,” said Xie.

Face­book COO Sheryl Sand­berg was the keynote speaker, said Xie. She spoke about leaning for­ward in the field and being proac­tive; traits that are impor­tant for anyone in the growing and com­pet­i­tive industry, not just women.

Photo: Der­rick Coetzee, “Front of Hopper Cray XE6, viewed from left (3)” October 14, 2011 via Flickr. Cre­ative Com­mons attribution.