Stephanie Ludi is the 2021 Tapia Conference Technical Panels and Workshops Chair and Professor and Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, University of North Texas. We spoke to Stephanie about what this last year has been like and what she is hoping for the future of diversity in computing.
What new projects are you working on this year?
I have been a Girl Scout Leader this year with all our meetings on zoom.
I was also promoted to associate chair for undergraduate studies for the computer science and engineering department. A bulk of my new work is developing the course schedule. I also have three new PhD students who are being onboarded onto accessibility and related research. One is doing accessibility related work for their home country, Saudi Arabia.
How have you been dealing with connecting students virtually?
I teach senior team projects which work well remotely. Students are using online communication mechanisms. I have a large class with 79 students broken into 18 teams. After the initial review sessions we created a meeting schedule where my TA and I would alternate meetings with teams. This worked very well and continues again this semester.
What gets crazy is at the very end of the term each team must do a lightning talk presentation. When teams presented over 2 days everyone in class came because they wanted to support each other. I also found that even when students did not turn their cameras on I did, and it helped get people more comfortable over time.
I find it is better to work remotely than social distance in class. With a visual impairment being six feet from the screen does not work. Having the student share their screen means I can enlarge their work which makes it more effective.
What did you learn last year from doing the virtual Tapia?
I liked the online system used last year – it was nice. It had a conference like infrastructure. I appreciated the fact that all the talks were recorded so I could watch them again and share them with my students.
What topics would you like to see submitted for technical panels and workshops?
I would like to see a bit more of a variety of topics. Like AI and Machine Learning, Data Engineering and Science. I would like to see other areas that have interesting work – software testing and visualization for example. Be inclusive of other areas where good work is happening as well. There are things people are working on that should be included if the proposal is good.
We are celebrating 20 years of Tapia this year. What are you looking forward to at the conference?
I hope there will be mechanisms showcasing things in years past and showing how things have changed or evolved. Are there artifacts from past Tapias? Here’s what the first program looks like. Where did people go? I am hoping the past student attendees come back. I suggest having people make videos of where they ended up. All my graduate students are international and going to conferences is new to them. I hope there is something for them to understand the networking and build those skills and welcome them to the community. Bring back Newcomers and teach people how to navigate the conference.
What do you hope the next 20 years brings to Diversity and Computing?
I hope we keep the momentum going that has been built – not just the technical but social and career aspects. If there were ways to have something for allies to engage. Link what’s going on in the conference with things outside of the conference. For a student that presents a poster and they have an interest in supporting Girls in Computing but they don’t know what to do find ways to link those students with opportunities to help increase the skill set by being the next generation to drive inclusion.