Twenty-two Informatics Diversity-Enhanced Workforce (iDEW) students, representing Pike, Providence Cristo Rey, and Arsenal Technical high schools in Indianapolis, recently attended the ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference held in Atlanta, Georgia. The students—pictured with Richard Tapia (back row, center)— were accompanied by iDEW Program Director and Executive Associate Dean Mathew J. Palakal, iDEW Program Manager and Diversity Coordinator Vicky Daugherty, Outreach Coordinator and iDEW Program Assistant Tina Rice, and Career Services Specialist Pat Rhodes, all of the IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI.
The goal of the Tapia Conference is to bring together undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, researchers, and professionals in computing from all backgrounds and ethnicities. Conference attendees celebrate the diversity that exists in computing and connect with others from similar backgrounds, ethnicities, disabilities, and gender. Attendees are also inspired by great presentations and conversations with leaders with backgrounds similar to their own.
The iDEW students were the youngest in attendance at the conference. Other attendees complimented the iDEW students for being tech savvy and for displaying abilities on par with those of older students. The students were also able to see themselves represented in the underserved students, faculty and industry professionals attending the conference. “I am glad I was given the opportunity to attend the conference because now I know what to expect in college in regards to preparing for a job in computing and I have an idea of what to expect in the workplace,” said one Arsenal Technical student.
The conference exposed the students to the many unique ways in which computing and technology shape the way people live, work, play, and communicate. While in Atlanta, the students also met with representatives from several companies, including Google, CNN, and Facebook, and visited several local colleges and historic landmarks.
The iDEW students showed tenacity and the desire to expand their IT intellect as they sat through plenary and breakout sessions that were sometimes more advanced that what they had previously experienced. They drew from those instances and shared their thoughts during the group’s recap sessions. “I am genuinely glad and grateful for the iDEW program and the opportunities it has offered me. This has literally been a life-changing experience for me,” said a Pike student. A Providence Cristo Rey student said, “Being able to experience the Tapia Conference has made me even more determined to get a degree in the STEM field.”
The iDEW program creates a direct pipeline of students pursuing post-secondary IT education or IT employment after high school graduation. Attendance at conferences like Tapia widens and deepens the students’ IT experiences, which is key to the iDEW program’s success and goal of serving as a model for future programs of its kind.