By Mary Catherine Frantz
Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture
Washington State University recently sent nine students to the annual Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando, Florida, for the opportunity to learn, network and celebrate the contributions of women in computing.
The Grace Hopper Celebration, or GHC, is the largest technical conference in the world for women in computing. More than 18,000 attendees came together for three days of career development and collaboration in an uplifting environment. The objective of GHC is to inspire collaborative proposals, networking and mentoring for attendees.
“GHC is all about support,” attendee and computer science student Kelsey Nash said. “It doesn’t matter where you are in your career; everybody wants to see you succeed.”
The conference features a variety of experiences, making it relevant for anyone interested in technology. Highlights of the conference include speakers from the industry and more than 200 interactive learning sessions. From college freshmen to Ph.D. students, everyone can learn from the sessions and individuals at the conference.
“The energy and enthusiasm are palpable,” said Shira Broschat, professor at the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “In some of sessions, the clapping sounded like a roaring crowd at a football game.”
Hundreds of businesses, from industry to academia, attend GHC, making it easy to for students to network with potential employers and other attendees. The conference hosts a large career expo, allowing students to speak with professionals in technology.
“It is a unique environment to talk with employers,” said computer science major Yunshu Du. “Getting to know company employees on a personal and professional level is a good indicator of what their corporate culture is like.”
Employers sometimes invite attendees to separate sessions for an exclusive chance to learn more about careers in their company. Nash had a breakthrough moment when she attended a session from Disney. They introduced positions in animation she had never heard of. By the end of GHC, Nash had a new dream job, and established a new goal to become an animator after college, working on visual effects.
“Until GHC, I didn’t know where my career was going,” Nash said. “Now, I know that I am working toward something. That sparked my drive, energy and confidence, which is life-changing for me.”
The GHC conference ends with a huge celebration. Everyone comes together in a dance party, complete with DJs, glow sticks and more. There is even a silent dance floor where dancing attendees listen to music on headphones. This event highlights the element of excitement that makes GHC special.
“It becomes more than just a conference, it is a community,” Nash said. “It was the best experience I have had in college.”
AnitaB.org finds sponsors to award hundreds of student and faculty scholarships to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration. Applications for GHC 18 Scholarships are open until March 7.