On October 4-6, the department sent eight Hope Computer Science students and one faculty member to this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando, Florida. The annual conference is the largest gathering of women in technology and is a great way for attendees to build their networks and celebrate the accomplishments of women in computing. This year, around 18,000 people attended the conference and were able to hear from inspiring women, such as keynote speaker Melinda Gates.

Melissa Bazany, a senior from Howell, MI, majoring in communications and minoring in computer science, was first drawn to computer science by web design, which provided a way to combine her communication design skills with logical thinking.  When asked to reflect on her experience and what she felt was most valuable about the conference, Bazany said, “Meeting new people led to learning new perspectives and takes on topics to help me learn more; with that, the willingness the people had to help students learn more there.”

“It’s really inspiring to see so many women coming together from an industry where you don’t actually see that many women in a single group. It’s a great place to begin networking and start searching for job opportunities while learning more about the industry,” said Joanie Davis, a senior from Caledonia, MI, majoring in computer science.

Amber Carnahan, a senior from Howell, MI, double majoring in English and computer science, commented on the wide array of speakers and attendees. “I loved hearing the multitude of ways that women used their computer science experience and the various careers they pursued. It showed how flexible computer science is and that the future can hold many possibilities.”

Attending the conference helped the students gain confidence in their abilities in Computer Science, and all of them came back with encouraging words for other young women who might be considering Computer Science.

“If you’re interested in CS, study it! Even if you eventually decide it’s not for you, you’ll gain skills that could prove invaluable to you, just in basic understanding of how technology works. And if it does click for you, then you’ve found your passion in an amazing field!” — Joanie Davis

“It sometimes can seem difficult and there’s a lot of men,” Bazany said, “but learning how to ask good questions and ‘holding your own’ in a traditionally male-dominant environment will prove to you that it’s just another area of study.”

Jori Gelbaugh, a sophomore Computer Science and International Studies double major from Galesburg, adds, “You are capable of learning computer science, regardless of your perceptions of what it is, and there is a large support network at Hope available in your process of learning.”

The CS department at Hope is committed to sending our young women to this conference each year, and to doing everything possible to provide a welcoming and supportive environment to everyone who is interested in learning more about what this exciting field has to offer.

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