Founding members of the Syracuse University chapter of the ACM. From left to right:  Fatma NGom, Hope Wilcox, Joshua Collins, Jesus Manuel Ortiz, Christa Farmen and David Mwanzia.

By: Diane Stirling
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A new student chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, is in its second year at the School of Information Studies (iSchool), and is experiencing growth with the spring induction of a new class of members.   

Founded in October 2013, the student ACM chapter is officially supported by the Syracuse-region professional chapter of ACM. Adding 10 new members this spring brings the roster to 18 students.

Keeping its membership base small and its focus targeted is part of the plan for the organization, whose mission is to provide high-achieving students with quality, career-minded experiences during their time at Syracuse, said Hope Wilcox, the group’s founder. That effort includes developing networking opportunities with IT organizations and firms regionally and nationally that will foster unique professional development, mentorship, scholarship, and career exposure opportunities, she said.

An iSchool sophomore now, Wilcox recognized the need for a scholarship-oriented and mentor-based organization in her freshman year, she said. With the help and encouragement of Julie Walas Huynh, iSchool undergraduate programs manager, and Associate Professors of Practice David Molta, David Dischiave, and Susan Dischiave, Wilcox worked to connect to the local ACM chapter while rounding up like-minded students to form the group.

“After speaking with [Professor] Molta and seeing his experience and background within IT, I recognized there was a strong need to have an involvement in a professional society within your field that would provide opportunities such as conferences, scholarships, and internship opportunities,” Wilcox said. Deciding to organize a student chapter of a national organization just made sense after that. “It was just seeing a need and wanting to provide that resource to other students who were curious about those opportunities like I was curious about,” the IM & T major added. That effort took most of the spring semester during her freshmen year, Wilcox said. She’s been very pleased since then by the high level of awareness and support received at the school from Dean Elizabeth Liddy and other faculty members, she added.

Chapter members who serve as the organization’s executive board, with Wilcox as its chair, are IM&T majors David Mwanzi, Fatma NGom, Jesus Ortiz, Christa Farmen, and Joshua Collins. “All the E-board members have been so dedicated to really helping this become a solid group,  distinguishing ourselves from the other organizations, and finding our identity within the  iSchool,” Wilcox noted. “That was something we had to work through, but we did.” New members are:  Candace Armstrong, Hugh Yang, Andrew Rodriguez, Heili Jee, Guo Jing Zeng, Amber Evans, Matthew Ostman, David Skoler, Blaine Killen, and ? Jacqueline Grossman.

The group meets intermittently in order to focus on presenting a few high-quality events versus routinely scheduled meetings. Activities are geared to providing unique opportunities for students to engage in the IT field, hone their information technology skills, connect with peers having the same interests, network with IT professionals, and access mentorship and scholarship opportunities, Wilcox said.

So far, the chapter has organized corporate trips to major IT companies, dinner meetings with recruiters, and community service events. Speakers have been invited to address members, including SU Career Services’ Sue Casson, who offered tips for preparing for and standing out during SU Career Week. Chris Yorkey, of Texas Instruments, came to campus to speak about Bluetooth low energy technology and provided student members with Senor Tag kits, too.

For the future, Wilcox hopes the chapter continues steady growth while expanding the types of professional advancement opportunities it can funnel students’ way. That would include information about research opportunities available through the iSchool and other avenues at Syracuse University. “ACM really just wants to be that bridge to students to the resources that are present now, as well as the opportunities to come in their future,” she said. “I hope it is recognized by the professors, administration, and recruiters, and that we can continue to partner with career services to show that the people from our organization represent what the iSchool has to offer.” As chapter members graduate, they can continue those professional connections for the benefit of ensuring members of ACM, Wilcox envisions, strengthening the connections of students in the field to those still in school.

Although the student ACM group is based at the iSchool, membership is open to graduate and undergraduate students from any of SU’s schools. Applications will be accepted again in the fall. Membership offers are extended after the chapter committee reviews them and conducts interviews. The group plans to accept only 10 new members each year.

Those interested in finding out more about the chapter are welcome to contact Wilcox, Huynh, or look up the chapter’s Facebook page, and follow on Twitter: @SUACMiSchool.