Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in Information Technology
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 February 2020
Volume 10, Issue 2
Welcome to the February 2020 issue of the CMD-IT newsletter.  Happy Black History Month!

To celebrate Black History Month in this issue we are highlighting two professionals who are having an impact today on computer science as well as two organizations that are helping impact and change the culture of computer science.

The 2020 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Call for ParticipationScholarship applications, and Sponsorship sales are open. Please be sure to submit your applications soon. To inspire you to participate and get involved we've interviewed Tapia Program Chair Robert Parke and our Program Deputy Chair Patti Ordonez. 

Best Regards,
CMD-IT Leadership   
Black History Month Profiles
In celebration of Black History Month we wanted to profile two leaders in Computer Science who are impacting our world today.  Today's profiles are of two computer scientists who have impacted what we see when we go to the movies.

Kayra Hopkins recently joined LinkedIn as a Software Engineer where she will be developing scalable enterprise software. Kayra impacted all of us with her work at Pixar Animation Studios as a technical director on the Global Technology and Rendering teams. Her work can be seen in the film Coco where Kayra built and maintained graphics software and rendering pipeline tools for animators and technical artists. Kayra is a world citizen and avid traveler. After completing Coco and prior to joining LinkedIn Kayra spent two years traveling the world, visiting more than twenty countries. 

Kayra received her PhD and Masters degrees in Computer Science & Engineering from Michigan State University and her Bachelor's degree from Spelman College.

Marc Hannah was one of the co- founders of Silicon Graphics, Inc. In 1986, he was named the company's principal scientist for the creation of computer programs like Personal IRIS, Indigo, Indigo2, and Indy graphics that were used to create effects for movies like Jurassic Park, Beauty and the Beast, The Hunt for Red October, and Field of Dreams.

Marc Hannah received his PhD and Master's degrees in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and his bachelor's degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Robert Parke Tapia Program Chair
Robert Parke, Senior Lecturer of Information Technology and Art and Design at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, is the 2020 Tapia Program Chair. Rob has been attending the Tapia Conference since 2016. We interviewed Rob about his career and how he became involved with the Tapia Conference.

Tell us about your life growing up.
I grew up in Southern California with my Dad who was a doctor, my Mom who was a special education teacher, and two older brothers.

How did you end up in Computer Science?
I was a geeky kid. I had family friends who taught me about computers and I learned how to build my own. In high school I would help train senior citizens how to use their computers. I found I had the patience to explain things to people. I also had an interest in design so I developed web sites for people as well. I took AP Computer Science in High School which reaffirmed my love of Computing and introduced me to my future wife.

Patricia Ordóñez 
Tapia Program Deputy Chair
Patricia Ordóñez, Associate Professor in Computer Science at the University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras, is the Program Committee Deputy Chair for the 2020 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing. I spoke to Patti about her career and her goals for Tapia 2020.

Tell me a little bit about your background - where did you grow up?
I am a first generation American; my parents were immigrants from Colombia and I was born in Kentucky but grew up in Maryland. My dad was a surgeon who became an ER doctor, my mother was a microbiologist. They met when she was one of his instructors.

How did you get into Computer Science?
This is a very complicated story. I went to a Math and Science private high school in Baltimore where I was focused on mathematics. I took a Computer Science class and really liked it, but my teacher discouraged me, he told me he didn't think I was logical. I attended Johns Hopkins University as an electrical engineering student. I took a mini computer class where there were five women in a class of 100. I ended up moving into Mathematics and doing what was necessary for Pre-Med. I later switched to a Spanish major and decided that I would go into teaching and teach Math, Sciences and Spanish. I became a high school teacher who taught math and Spanish and coached field hockey and lacrosse. Eventually I left teaching but continued coaching and became a ballroom dancing teacher. I moved to a tech company and began working in tech support eventually becoming the lead technical trainer for the organization. Eventually I quit and took three months to travel through South America.

In Latin America I realized that every town had an Internet café. Travel also made me realize what privilege I had being an American and white and how where you are born can change the direction of your life. I was inspired to find a way to bring computing to everyone in Latin America. I decided to get my PhD from the department of Computer Science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Paying for it was a challenge but I was able to get my sister to buy half my house and I applied for scholarships and took out loans. I became the first student in the Department of Computer Science at UMBC to receive an NSF GRFP (Graduate Research Fellowship). I became passionate about data science before it was even an area of focus. I could see there were huge troughs of data in medicine that needed algorithms, data structures, and computer science to make them useful.

When I was completing my PhD, I found I had many options - industry, a Postdoc or a Faculty position. I wanted to teach and do research and I also wanted to be in a Spanish speaking country. I decided to go to the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras. I was surprised when I got there to find Puerto Rico was just beginning to move to electronic medical records (EMRs). Since my research depended on EMRs, I had to rethink my research direction.

In This Issue
#Tapia2020 Due Dates
March 9 - Call For Participation Submissions Due
March 9 - Scholarship Applications Due for Poster and Doctoral Consortium Submitters
March 27 - Scholarship Applications Due for All Others
July 1 - Sponsorship Signup Priority Deadline
AfroTech is the presenter of one of the largest multicultural tech conferences in the United States, bringing together engineers, venture capitalists, recruiters, technologists, and culture enthusiasts from all over the world. AfroTech brings leaders in technology and business together to exchange ideas and build a strong black tech community.

AfroTech 2020 will take place November 12 - 15 in Oakland CA.  Over 10,000 participants are expected.  AfroTech's call for participation is open until April 17th.
The Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computing Sciences (iAAMCS, pronounced 'i am cs') serves as a national resource for all African-American computer science students and faculty.

IAAMCS presents the NSBC (National Society of Blacks in Computing) Conference each year  to create a safe space for participants to receive mentorship, increase professional networks, enhance social capital, and plan their career trajectories.  Learn more at

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