A progressive step was taken last semester on the campus of Kean University and in the community of the computing sciences field. In October of 2016, a new organization was established; it is an extension of a pre-existing campus organization while simultaneously being an independent association.
The organization is Association for Computing Machinery-Women (ACM-W) Student Chapter Program, not to be confused with its fellow campus chapter Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).
Both chapters recognized by the global ACM society, the two share the same focus: give a boost to people’s interest and insight in computing science.
There is one leading objective that separates ACM-W from ACM: a foundation of promoting women in the computing career field. Regardless of gender, all who wish to lessen this gender gap can become members of ACM-W. No one should be discouraged to join ACM-W.
“Our chapter is indeed inclusive and we have been and will continue to hold collaborative events and meetings with the existing ACM student chapter,” Stephanie Eordanidis stated.
This growing chapter of ACM was founded by Eordanidis, who is the former ACM-W president. Although no longer president, Eordanidis still resonates with its mission and is an active member. She is a senior majoring in computer science with a focus on information systems and minoring in Asian studies.
Students on campus felt women considering or who are already in this profession and similar occupations need support and encouragement to continue their career pursuit. It can be daunting to attempt success in a place where people feel underrepresented. And ACM-W is looking to abate this bleak outlook of the technology field.
“We wanted to create this chapter to provide to women in the computing sciences and related fields a safe platform to communicate with one another, network and exchanges ideas,” Eordanidis said. “...Since [there are few] women in these career domains...we wish to provide them unique career fairs, speaker events, job/internship and scholarship opportunities, information sessions and more all specifically geared toward these women and their needs.”
In its first few weeks of being an organization on campus, ACM-W took a large step and entered the nation-wide ACM-W Student Seed Fund. The competition was co-sponsored by Google and National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT).
Dr. Juan Li, the adviser of the campus chapter and Department of Computer Science assistant professor, was the one who mentioned the competition to campus organization.
ACM-W and other competing institutions had to meet a criteria of assorted factors. For the new chapter, ACM-W had to ultimately build its presence on campus.
Eordanidis said that in order to be considered for the grant, they had to “Acquire a minimum of 20 members, find members to take up officer positions, create the official chapter through ACM.org and build up the chapter’s web system, fill out a seed fund application and submit it along with a recommendation for the chapter chair at the time, [all of which was due in] a two-month time frame.”
There were three tiers of the competition, with the winning groups receiving awards of various amounts. The Trailblazer Award, the top tier, winners were two universities, which received a grant up to $15,000. The second-tier Amplification Award went to five universities around the nation, and the award amount was up to $5,000. The third tier, Start-up Funding, was worth up to $3,000 and awarded to Kean University’s very own ACM-W Chapter, along with eight other institutions.
“This is a competitive award, typically only one out of ten applications is selected and awarded,” Eordanidis continued. “This is the first time Kean [University] has received such an award and we are excited about the potential opportunities and look forward to contribute to the cause of engaging more women into computer science.”
Eordanidis shared one of the reasons the organization decided to enter its hat in the competition.
As a new non-funded organization on campus, “We applied for the grant in order to attain funds to start up our chapter,” she said. “Theses funds are necessary to start building up our chapter and start holding its meetings and events.”
The organization aims to spend the $3,000 grant for various chapter means, always keeping the organization and university in mind. To start with, refreshments at meetings, campus-wide career fairs, general information sessions on the association and the career field, have guest speakers who are women in computing field and team up with the community for STEM events.
Since its start last fall, ACM-W and ACM paired together to host events along the likes of workshops and guest speakers. The plan for ACM-W this semester is to host an event each month, beginning hopefully in March 2017.
As mentioned earlier, ACM-W is welcoming of all. Students can become members by reaching out to Chapter Adviser Dr. Li. Members are asked to give their Kean University email address so they can receive chapter news and information.
ACM-W and its members want the lasting effect of the organization to be empowerment, for members to be encouraged “to participate and stay in the field of computer science and get help throughout the professional career in the field,” said Eordanidis.