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Programming Students Represent South

Students selected to attend the prestigious Grace Hopper Conference

August 8, 2014


Recently, four South Seattle College students were selected to attend the prestigious Grace Hopper Conference. The conference, named after the pioneering computer scientist Grace Hopper, is touted as the “world’s largest gathering of women technologists.” This year’s conference is headlined by industry heavy-hitters including Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella.

The theme for the conference is as powerful as it is simple: BE INSPIRED. After learning about these four students from South, it’s hard not to be inspired by their innovative spirit..

Each student selected had to apply for a scholarship from South that covered their expenses to attend the conference which takes place in Phoenix this coming October. In addition to being Computer Science majors, each applicant had to carry a minimum of a 3.0 GPA in order to be eligible for the scholarship.  This year, this innovative group from South includes: Tori Overman, Rachel Brown, Audrey Ackerman and Molly Watson.  They represent the new frontier of women entering STEM (science, math, technology and engineering) fields at an increasing rate in America, and are all involved in South’s Women of STEM Club.  

This unique opportunity was presented to South’s students by Computer Science instructor Ravi Gandham, who was pleased with the selected participants.  “Each of these women are great students,” he explained.  “And they are the first from South to attend the conference!”

We sat down with these students to get some insight on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity they are about to add to their resume and life experience.
Question: What do you hope to gain from attending this conference?

Molly Watson: I've wanted to go to the Grace Hopper Celebration for several years now, and I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to attend as a student. I hope to gain both inspirational and motivational tools for leading more girls and women into the field of computing. I am very excited about computer science and the possibilities it holds, and I want to be able to more effectively translate that enthusiasm for tech into action that will excite and inspire others. In particular, I'll be looking for leadership skills and ideas to help me better guide groups of computer programmers, as well as good examples of group coding projects that I can apply to, such as code-a-thon and other group coding situations. 

Audrey Ackerman: Our plan is to do what we've done at other conferences - split up to cover as much ground as possible, and bring back all the resources and information we can collect. We are planning on giving a presentation at South Seattle College to share what we have learned. This is by far the biggest conference we have attended, so the scope of this project is much larger than what we have done in the past.

Question: Is there any part of the conference in particular that you are looking forward to?

Tori Overman: I’m looking forward to engaging with other women computer science majors. There are so few women going into this field and getting to know the other women would be very rewarding.

Molly Watson: I'm looking forward to the leadership workshops on October 8th, as well as the "Internet of Things" topic seminars on October 9th. The Internet has such potential for both informing and teaching, and I'm very excited to get to chat with other tech professionals about how that potential can be harnessed as a means for positive ends.

Question: Once you are out in the work world, what are you hoping to do in your field? How will South help you reach that professional goal?

Molly Watson
: I'm hoping to establish an online tech learning organization that focuses not only on connecting people to education materials, but also providing educational support, peer tutoring, and mentoring. South will help me reach my professional goals by giving me a solid computer science foundation that will allow me to transfer into a good C.S. program (probably at U.W. Bothell), as well as allowing me to connect with like-minded and passionate students and faculty in the CS and STEM fields. These connections will be incredibly valuable once I enter the work world, as will the friendships I'm developing here!

Audrey Ackerman: I hope to work with artificial intelligence. At South I was able to take classes that introduced me to different areas in computer science. This included a series on Java programming taught by Ravi Gandham, who is also our faculty advisor for the club. Through Ravi especially, all of us have been able to make connections like this well beyond our roots at South.

Tori Overman: I want to become a Software Engineer and work primarily in educational software. Meaning I want to work on things like Khan Academy, Free websites or software for schools that help teach young people STEM skills.

Rachel Brown: When I go into the professional world, I'd like to be involved in either communications or something that could be used by people every day, like apps or programs on smartphones and computers. South is already helping me with this by providing opportunities to get involved with things like this conference and the Hour of Code where we can develop our skills and create our own apps or programs. The instructors here have also been helpful, teaching their content well while being active in responding to student questions and feedback.