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CISters in Portland

Last November the University provided funding for eleven students to attend the Grace Hopper Conference, an all-women computer science event. The conference was held in Portland, OR and attended by nearly 3000 professional, academic and student computer scientists from across the country.

A few weeks ago I met with Melissa Xie, the president of both CISters (Northeastern’s women in computing club) and the Northeastern chapter of ACM.

According to Associate Dean Doreen Hodgkin, Xie has turned CISters into a thriving resource for the CIS community. She has organized student teaching programs in the Boston Public schools and workshops for  Girl Scouts troops to learn internet safety.

CISters was founded in 2004 with the goal of raising money to attend the Grace Hopper Conference. Under Xie’s lead, they finally got there. According to Xie, Hopper was a pioneer for computer science and the conference is a celebration in her honor of female computer scientists.

Xie and her fellow students attended career fairs and networking events, research talks and poster sessions. But the format and all female attendance also allowed for workshops on being a woman in a male dominated industry.

“It was very exciting and so cool seeing so many other women. Each person we met was more impressive than the other,” said Xie.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was the keynote speaker, said Xie. She spoke about leaning forward in the field and being proactive; traits that are important for anyone in the growing and competitive industry, not just women.

Photo: Derrick Coetzee, “Front of Hopper Cray XE6, viewed from left (3)” October 14, 2011 via Flickr. Creative Commons attribution.