WeBelong! workshop aims to help women thrive in computer science

Recently, the Department of Computer Science & Engineering hosted the first-ever WeBelong! workshop, which aimed to support and promote women in computing. Mariah Yelenick, a senior majoring in computer science, helped organize the event and reflects on the experience.

Attendees at the inaugural WeBelong! event had the opportunity to network with fellow students and faculty during a catered breakfast. Submitted photo

WeBelong! is the beginning of a new tradition at Washington University in St. Louis. The Department of Computer Science & Engineering in the McKelvey School of Engineering funded and helped organize the event for women new to WashU or to computer science who were interested in learning more about the department, getting to know upper-class women and faculty and finding friends who share their interests and experiences.

Marion Neumann, senior lecturer, and I organized this first event, which included a friendly mentoring breakfast, a poster session, a panel discussion and a hands-on coding session.

For me, WeBelong! meant a lot more than just getting to introduce incoming students to computer science at WashU. It confirmed to me that the department cares about encouraging and supporting women who are interested in studying computer science. The department already helps fund and support organizations like WiCS (Women in Computer Science) and allows students to attend Grace Hopper and interview with big-name companies. With WeBelong!, the department demonstrated that it truly cares about us thriving during our time at WashU, not just making sure we succeed once we leave.

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As we begin to plan next semester's WeBelong!, we're thinking critically about what kind of information we would have liked as new students, as well as what sort of opportunities we can provide new students to prove we're glad they're here, that they're choosing to study our favorite subject and that we want them to succeed.

The next WeBelong! workshop will be held Sunday, Jan. 26. To learn more, visit sites.wustl.edu/webelong and check back in 2020 for volunteer and participant sign-up forms.