Texas A&M University students at the 2018 Tapia Conference in Orlando, Florida. | Image: CMD-IT, Tapia 2018

The Texas A&M University Department of Computer Science and Engineering supported student travel to the 2018 Tapia Conference in September in Orlando, Florida. The Tapia Conference fosters opportunities that are distinct from most other computer science conferences as it “acknowledges, promotes and celebrates diversity in computing.”

The conference brings together many individuals from underrepresented communities with research-oriented discussions regarding accessibility and socially-aware computing. According to Seth Polsley, a Texas A&M computer science student and attendee, students were able to interact with graduate students researching technology based on their first-hand experiences with a disability, see a presentation given in sign language by a speaker who was deaf (through an interpreter), attend a career fair and connect with undergraduate and high school students from underrepresented communities about their plans and goals.

Texas A&M students at the 2018 Tapia Conference. | Image: CMD-IT, Tapia 2018

“One of the biggest advantages of attending this conference was the opportunity to meet so many new people. I’ve never done so much networking ever before in my life. I met people from the technology field with the latest knowledge in this domain. The career fair helped me a lot in my internship hunt. I talked to companies at the career fair such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook. I even had two interviews. I loved the enthusiasm of the people at the conference. Given the chance, I would definitely do it again. Thank you.”

-Juicy Ray ’20

Texas A&M Computer Science and Engineering students | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

“It gave me a vision of the skills I need to work on before graduation in order to find an excellent career.”  -Maryam Savari ’21

“It was so encouraging to see Aggies across the nation doing cool things. I can’t wait to find my place soon too.” -Amy Li

Texas A&M Computer Science and Engineering students | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

“The conference was a life-changing experience for me. I learned so much more about the computer science field, and I think it helped me decide what I would like to work on.”

-Omar Santos ’20

2018 Tapia Conference Career Fair | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

“I learned about the efforts in some states and programs that aim to expose girls in rural areas to technology who may not otherwise get experience with computers. I learned about the statistics and studies around women of color in tech. The conference was enlightening. It reinforced my belief that we, as stakeholders in the technology industry, should aim for greater diversity.”

- Maria Francine Lapid ’19

Texas A&M Computer Science and Engineering students at the 2018 Tapia Conference. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

“I was nervous at first since I didn't know anyone on the trip, but I slowly began to meet people who showed me kindness and helped raise my confidence as a programmer. Everyone was so supportive. I was able to ask questions without being judged and was given support without even having to ask for it. It was wonderful to see so many strong female programmers as attendees, speakers and recruiters. It helped calm my fears of entering the tech industry by seeing so many women happy in their careers with a healthy work/life balance.”  -Gabi Nosworthy

David Kebo Houngninou, instructional assistant professor, and Richard Tapia | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

“As a person that is part of an underrepresented group in computer science, it is always amazing to see people who look like me and are from the same background. From industry leaders to prominent researchers, I see a diverse view of excellence.”

-Chris Madison ’19

The theme for the 2018 conference was “Diversity: Roots of Innovation.” This year’s conference emphasized the historical role of diversity with respect to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) innovation, and declared it as a standard essential set of roots for computing innovation in the future. Conquering computing challenges going forward – while ensuring benefits across all global citizens – requires the resources, talent and experiences from a diverse collective.

The computer science and engineering department has been a long-time supporter of the annual conference. The Tapia Conferences are sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery, presented by the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in Information Technology and are in cooperation with the Computing Research Association.