Last Friday, students new to the College of Engineering and Computing gathered in the Corner Pocket, a space in the Hub to attend Your Path to Tech, a daylong event hosted by Break Through Tech Mason. The event welcomed students new to the College of Engineering and Computing, especially women, interested in exploring computer science (CS) and information sciences and technology (IST). Students heard from accomplished speakers, practiced skills in hands-on workshops, and connected with both academic advisors and peer mentors.
Missy Cummings, one of the nation’s first female fighter pilots, former advisor for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and current George Mason University professor and director of the Mason Autonomy and Robotics Center, gave a keynote address. Afterward, attendees heard from a panel of women with ample tech industry experience and a panel of Mason alumni now working in the field.
“All of their stories were so empowering,” said Pallavi Vegesna, who is starting a Master’s in Data Analytics Engineering this fall. She was inspired by the speakers’ unique paths to working in tech: One panelist majored in psychology before working for the CIA; two others immigrated to the U.S. to pursue their American Dreams.
“It made me emotional because I'm here today as a grad student. And I hope to ... make it like they've made it,” said Vegesna. “They worked really, really hard to be where they are today, and looking at them gives me reassurance that women can make it in tech—and women can make it really, really big in tech.”
Students received hands-on experience through workshops like “A Hands-On Introduction to the AI Pipeline,” led by assistant CS professor Antonis Anastasopoulos, and “Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics Analytics,” led by associate IST professor Humaira Akhtari and Mason alumnus Elijah Bass. The event also offered attendees the chance to talk to CS and IST advisors and be matched with a peer mentor to help them navigate their studies at Mason.
“Students had a blast listening to our awesome speakers and being a part of those hands-on workshops – those were big hits!” said Shahnaz Kamberi, an associate professor of CS as well as the event’s organizer. She looks forward to the success of the Pathfindher mentorship program, which teamed upperclassmen with freshmen and transfer students who attended Your Path to Tech. “The mentor-mentee pairs were still in deep conversation even after we wrapped up and closed the venue,” she said.
“I hope the attendees learned a lot from the event,” Kamberi added. “The main takeaway I hope they gained is confidence in their decision to stick with tech. I hope through hearing from these powerful women in the industry, the students learned that even with obstacles and challenges, they can definitely succeed in their path to tech.”
Break Through Tech Headlines
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