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Cynthia Worrad on Student Involvement in the 2019 ECC Conference

By Destination Z posted Mon December 23, 2019 03:43 PM


Cynthia Worrad is an assistant dean for the School of Computer Science and Mathematics at Marist College. She actively supports programs that encourage and support women pursuing careers in the STEM fields. I met her in 2018 at the Enterprise Computing Community (ECC) conference. She started working at Marist in 2017 after being employed for eight years at Dutchess Community College (DCC) in a number of roles. Prior to her work at DCC, Worrad had a decade of industry experience, which is a good fit for her responsibilities at Marist and with the conference.

The ECC conference is a significant event each year that keeps the Marist leadership and support staff actively engaged in promoting student success, as well as the Marist faculty that spoke at the conference. The faculty completed research and the creation of the materials they presented, sometimes in conjunction with the involvement of their students. This year, as was the case in 2018, Worrad had a leadership role at the 2019 ECC conference. She chairs the planning committee with a focus on coordinating the speakers and student workers. Worrad works with a fully engaged team at Marist including faculty, staff and students, as well as academic and industry partners, sponsors, and attendees to make this conference successful.  

5 Questions About Student Involvement at the ECC 

I discussed the general role of students with Worrad and she shared with me this quote from Roger Norton, dean of the School of Computer Science and Mathematics at Marist College and principle investigator on the national science foundation grant that started the ECC conference 12 years ago. 

“Student involvement is integral to the ECC conference. Students participate as speakers, audience members, members of panels, and are important to the day to day running of the conference itself. Since, the focus of the conference has always been related to undergraduate curriculum, it would be foolish for us to ignore the voices of those we are trying to educate.”

The focus of the Q&A with Worrad that follows is on the students who had a role to play at the conference as we had an extraordinary amount of student involvement this year.

We had Marist students supporting the conference. How many? What majors? What did they get for doing it?

A: 10 Marist students provided support at the ECC conference transporting attendees to and from parking lots in golf carts, providing technical assistance in the presentation rooms and general assistance. They were paid as part of their summer work experience, received a Marist t-shirt and an opportunity to participate in all aspects of the conference, including presentations, meals and networking events. 

Most of the students at the conference major in computer science, information technology, and systems and applied mathematics. Some of their concentrations are in software development and minors are in data science and analytics. The conference was a great opportunity for the students for professional development and meeting enterprise computing industry leaders. The students working at the 2019 ECC conference learned about cybersecurity, mathematics, computer science and information technology and information systems.

We had Marist students presenting with faculty. I attended one presentation regarding IT and physical therapy and there were two student presenters. Were there others?

A: There were 18 students who presented at the ECC conference, some individually, others with faculty or industry advisors. We also had student panelists from Marist College, Bergen Community College, Central New Mexico Community College, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute and North Carolina A&T State University. There is a huge benefit to these students to present at the conference. They also network, pick up technical information and benefit from all of the interaction with the diverse attendees.

Q: We had students attending from community colleges like Bergen Community College. Were there others from community colleges? I encountered individuals from Central New Mexico Community College but I am sure that there were others.

A: In total, we had 55 students attend the conference from three community colleges, seven colleges and eight universities. Specific to your question, 18 students attended from the community colleges. Here is a list of the institutions:

• Albany State University
• Baruch College
• Bergen Community College
• Central New Mexico Community College
• CUNY- New York City College of Technology
• Farmingdale State College
• Marist College
• Middlesex County College
• New Jersey City University
• New York City College of Technology
• North Carolina A&T State University
• NYC College of Technology—CUNY
• Robert Morris University
• The College of Westchester
• University of Arkansas
• University of New Mexico
• University of Rochester
• Washington University in St. Louis

The students from Bergen Community College were very appreciative of the opportunity to attend the conference and they took every opportunity to learn and interact. It was hard not to notice their enthusiasm and passion and they clearly were the leaders in having fun at the Monday evening “Mardi Gras Masquerade Murder Mystery Cabaret.” 

We had students attending the ECC Conference from four-year colleges. I met a young lady for NC A&T and I am sure that there were others. She came with her faculty sponsor. Were there others?

A: 37 students attended from four-year institutions. They are included in the list above. Students coming to the conference with faculty sponsors is something that we are encouraging and this has been growing in numbers from year to year. It is a kind of mentoring that really helps the students prepare for future employment opportunities.

I think we had some interns from IBM. Is that true? Were there others?

A: We also have nine Marist College students who worked and/or presented at the conference who are also working on Marist College campus as interns in the Marist/IBM joint study. The college has had a longstanding partnership with the IBM Corporation that has helped place Marist among the most technologically advanced liberal arts colleges in the country. A key component of the Marist/IBM partnership has been a 30-year joint study arrangement that has benefited both the college and IBM in many ways.

Students Make a Big Difference  

Worrad shared this quote with me from Roberta Diggins, Marist College 12-year ECC conference planning committee member:

“The objective over the last 11 years of the ECC has been to promote undergraduate education in enterprise computing and this year we proved that our message is beginning to take hold. We had over 50 students attending and participating in the conference. Students were engaged in the subject matter and interested in opportunities that offer careers in mainframe technology. We hope that the ECC had something to do with seeing this new generation of talent but we need to do more for underrepresented student groups and provide opportunities for training at the college level.” 

It was a vibrant conference this year made better by the increased involvement of the many students from all over the country, of different races and genders. I had many opportunities for social interaction at meals and coffee breaks and this gave me a chance to get to know them better, share ideas thus giving me a window into their future in IT.