Celebrating diversity in tech: IST students attend annual Tapia conference

Sarah Rothfleisch
October 03, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In September, 11 students from the College of Information Sciences and Technology attended the ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing in San Diego, a four-day conference to acknowledge and promote diversity and inclusion in computing.

The attending students listened to keynote speakers, networked with professionals and companies, and saw firsthand how the skills they’re learning at IST will impact their future careers.

One keynote speaker was Dena Haritos Tsamitis, the director of the Information Networking Institute in the College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, who gave a lecture on overcoming imposter syndrome — a phenomenon in which students and professionals doubt or minimize their skills and accomplishments and fear exposure as a fraud who doesn’t belong.

IST students Tiffany Bass, sophomore in cybersecurity analytics and operations, and Sydney Boyd, junior in information sciences and technology, felt that Haritos Tsamitis’ presentation was one of the most important of the entire conference.

“It was actually really nice to hear a professional talk about giving herself the credit she deserves,” said Boyd.

Bass echoed Boyd in recognizing the impact imposter syndrome had on her.

“You’re here because you worked hard and you deserve it, not because of luck,” said Bass.

The conference also proved to the attendees just how necessary and important the lessons they are learning at IST really are.

“The best part of attending wasn’t actually a single event, but more so seeing the skills [I’m learning] through my classes were actually wanted by companies,” Boyd said. “You talk to these companies and they get excited about what you’ve learned, and you make connections with them. These connections were valuable to not only me, but [to] the recruiters.”

Attending the conference seemed to be a confidence-builder for most of the IST students. For those like Bass who have not always felt confident in their abilities, they came back to Penn State with a newfound sense of pride and security in their abilities.

“When I came back from the conference, I felt like I was even walking differently,” she said. “I felt more confident and more like I belonged – more like I deserved to be here.”

For Andrew Pacheco, sophomore in information sciences and technology, being able to connect with representatives from numerous companies was an invaluable experience.

“The most rewarding part of my experience at the Tapia Conference was participating in three interviews during our time there,” Pacheco noted. “I worried that the companies present would not show much interest in a student like me, but it made me feel really proud that companies were interested in what I had to offer.”

The conference is named for Richard Tapia, a first-generation Latin-American professor from Rice University who has dedicated his career to diversity within the tech field. The annual conference aims to celebrate diversity in the tech field and inspire future generations of students by connecting them to professionals and companies that want to help guide them to strong careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

Last Updated September 03, 2020