Empowering Leadership: Computing Scholars of Tomorrow Alliance

Start a Local ELA Chapter

juan sequedaIf you are interested in starting an ELA student group on your campus, here is a resource written by ELA UT Austin Computer Science PhD student leader, Juan Sequeda. (http://www.juansequeda.com/ and pictured at the right)

 For more information, contact Alice Fisher, EL Alliance program manager today at afisher@rice.edu. 

Empowering Leadership Alliance at UTCS Report 2008 

The Department of Computer Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin has several student organizations. To date, there exists an ACM chapter, Women in Computer Sciences, Turing Honors, Electronic Game Developers, etc. However there was not a student group that was oriented specifically to minority students in this department.  In Fall of 2007, several minority students were offered the opportunity to attend the Richard Tapia Conference, which then led to the initiative of starting a student organization.

The purpose of Empowering Leadership Alliance at the University of Texas at Austin, Department of Computer Sciences (ELA@UTCS) is to provide opportunities for underrepresented students in Computer Sciences to get involved in leadership, research, networking with academic peers locally and nationally through outreach and mentoring programs, social activities, faculty engagement, and attendance at conferences.

In order to accomplish our goals, we have devised several functions within ELA@UTCS, where there is an officer that is the lead for each function. Firstly, networking between our members is done through monthly meetings. Furthermore, we offer monthly faculty lunches so members can meet professors, learn about their research and opportunities. We also offer tutoring for several different computer science courses, in association with other organzations and departments at the university. In addition, we offer a mentoring program where students can seek for advice from other senior students. Additionally, we have been colaborating with the outreach efforts of the department. Finally, we organize social events in order to integrate the members of the group.

General Meetings
In 2008, we organized seven general meetings (February, March, April, May, September, October and November). All the meetings would range from 15 to 25 students.

Faculty Lunches
The objective of the Faculty lunches are to expose ELA members to the research opportunites at UTCS. In 2008, we organized three of these lunches. The first lunch was in a Computer Architecture and Operating Systems lunch held in March. Professors Stephen Keckler, Michael Dahlin, Lorenzo Alvisi and Emmett Witchel attended. The second faculty lunch was about AI and held in April. Professors Benjamin Kuipers, Vladimir Lifschitz, Risto Miikkulainen, Gordon Novak, Bruce Porter and Raymond Mooney attend this lunch. In Fall 2008 we had a lunch about Computer Graphics and Human Computer Interaction. Professor Chandrajit Bajaj from the CS department and Professors Luis Revilla and Randolph Bias from the Information School were part of the lunch. We are very thankful that the professors are interested in this objective and have been willing to always attend these lunches. The attendance of members are between 10 to 20.

Social Events
Every general meeting was also a means to socialize between members. There is always free food offered in these meetings. Additionally, in Fall 2008, ELA@UTCS had a team representing us in the soccer tournament organized by the university. We went to the playoffs.

At the beginning of the year, we asked the students if they wanted to become mentors and if they were looking for mentors. However, after pairing students up, not everybody would follow up with each other. We acknowledge that this is an aspect that we would like to further pursue and see how we could encourge students to be more active in the mentoring program

Members of ELA@UTCS participated in the STARS Alliance conference at Auburn University in Alabama in August 2008. The conference was focused on promoting diversity in computing fields. ELA@UTCS was given the task to create a project that further interest in Computer Science. Our project was implemented through mentoring of undergraduates and our Saturday morning event "Breakfast Bytes". "Breakfast Bytes" is held monthly at the university and middle school and high school students are invited to get a feel for C.S. through interactive activities, as well as having the opportunity to listen to a professor at the university speak about various topics pertaining to Computer Science.

Plans for 2009
At the end of 2008, we did a recap on everything that happened in the year, and what we would do to make better. We realized that we were lacking organization in the preparation of events. We also want to make the mentoring program more encourging. Additionally, we want to offer more social events for our members. Furthermore, we want to be able to measure how our members are doing inside the Computer Science Department, and how many students are getting interested in research. We want to make ELA@UTCS a sustainble organization, and therefore we want members to be interested in continuing this organization. We are planning to hold elections of officers for the new academic calendar.

We have created our website (http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/ela/) where we can keep track of all types of events. Additionally, we will have lists of internships and scholarships that students should be aware of. We are already planning to have faculty lunches every month (January - April). In addition, we already have devised social events for every month.