As part of a mission to fund student travels to conferences and professional experiences, the Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool) recently sent a group of Women in Information Technology (WIT) students to attend the Ontario Celebration of Women in Computing (ONCWIC) on October 22 through October 23, 2010, in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

“We got the wonderful opportunity to share experiences with many industry and academia professionals,” said WIT president Chhavi Gupta G’11, an M.S. in Information Management student. “I liked the panelists who spoke about their experiences of transition from industry to academia and vice versa.”

WIT members, including Gupta, Johanna Olivares, Christina Ying Chen, Jasy Liew, Xueqing Xuan, Shiyuan Chen, Piyush Sharma, Kanika Raina, Juliana Mends, Anjana Thimmaiah, and Stephanie Santoso, mingled with approximately 120 undegraduate and graduate students, professors, and representatives from IBM, CA Technologies, and Microsoft. The regional ONCWIC conference, modeled after the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC), was the first to bring the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront in Canada.

“The goal of ONCWIC is to allow students, faculty, and professional women in Ontario to experience the opportunities for networking, sharing, and mentoring that is unique to GHC,” Gupta said. “It was very well organized, and the WIT team was the largest group at the conference.”

Keynote speakers at the conference included Debra Danielson, senior vice president of the Center of Excellence at CA Technologies; Valerie Davidson from the University of Guelph School of Engineering; and Kim McLeod, Leadership Development and Academic Initiatives program manager at the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. Panels included, among others, Careers in Academia and Industry, Enabling a Smarter Planet, Technology Trends for the Future and Their Implications, and Communicating Effectively in Male-Dominated Professions.

“I am inspired by the management team of the conference and want to organize such an event at Syracuse University,” Gupta said. “I am looking forward to attending more conferences like this in future.”

The students not only attended the conference, but also presented two posters. The first highlighted the Bolstering Original Opportunities and Self through Technology (BOOST) initiative, which focuses on helping women and men overcome obstacles to gain employment or start a home business. The BOOST program teaches technology skills and accounting software, as well as promotes entrepreneurial ideals to members of the local community. The second poster, called Smart Dressing Room, focused on a formative evaluation of design.

The iSchool provided visas for international students to attend the conference as well as transportation to Kingston. ONCWIC sponsored lodging and boarding at the Radisson hotel for the duration of the conference.