Grace Hopper Virtual Celebration
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep students online and businesses at home, several national STEM conferences are making the transition to the virtual realm as well. This past October, several University of Denver (DU) students and faculty attended the virtual Grace Hopper Celebration. Grace Hopper brings the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront. For some students and faculty Grace Hopper was a brand new experience, while others have previously attended—but it was everyone’s first virtual experience of this massive conference. Virtual conferences in the age of COVID have their ups and downs.
Assistant Professor, Sanchari Das, PhD has attended Grace Hopper the last four years, albeit this was her first time attending the women’s conference virtually. She has been attending the conference since she was a student herself, having gotten a scholarship to attend in person for two years. After this she worked as a recruiter for Grace Hopper to get students involved in the conference. Now, Das is a representative for DU at Grace Hopper events. Kerstin Haring, associate professor, PhD, also attended the event this year. She attended last year for the first time in Florida with a number of students and faculty.
While the conference is geared toward women, Das said “I am encouraging toward all of my students and peers to attend this event. Those who are women, of course, but also those who are allies.” Das expressed how inspiring this conference is not only for her, but for students as well, to see so many women in tech succeeding and thriving. The connections Das has had the privilege to make have turned into professional relationships, friendships, and sometimes “lifelong bonds.” Haring said, “It’s a rare sight in STEM, still, to see mainly women. I was very happy to be a part of that.”
Haring said it was definitely a different experience this year, and it was flipped in focus where usually these events are aimed toward networking, the virtual setting made the talks and keynote speakers the main piece of interaction. With the conference completely virtual this year, networking was an aspect that students did not get the chance to experience. Given the circumstances, the feedback overall on the newly virtual conference was positive, but it made networking even harder for students who are completely new to the idea. It’s a new age of networking in an increasingly digital world post-COVID. Nevertheless, they were still able to experience a wide range of career opportunities and keynote speakers.
All in all, a number of DU students and faculty were able to attend virtually this year and still be a part of an amazing community of women in STEM. Haring said, “It’s inspiring to see that much brain power and so many educated women gathered in one place.” Students who attended this year gave a lot of positive feedback and were excited to have been a part of the event. Despite its virtual setting, many students still had the chance to attend amazing talks and meet with many potential employers.
For anyone interested in attending Grace Hopper 2021, you must sign up through your university. As of now, Grace Hopper is scheduled to be virtual out of Chicago through September 26-29, 2021.