CEHC Hosts ‘State of Grace’ Conference to Celebrate Women Technologists

By Fiona Hernandez

ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept. 22, 2022) – The College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC) is hosting its annual “State of Grace” conference this week to celebrate women in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics) fields.  

The conference is a spinoff of the national “Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing,” which is being hosted this week in Orlando, Fla. The annual event is named after computer programmer and inventor Grace Brewster Murray Hopper, who was a pioneer in her field and a role model for women technologists.  

UAlbany’s State of Grace conference was brought to campus in 2018 through the leadership of CEHC Vice Dean Jennifer Goodall. The conference varies slightly each year with new sessions that are tailored to help women succeed in STEAM. This year, the conference is offering sessions both in person and virtually, including a number of discussions with women professionals in tech, a game design workshop, and a cybersecurity competition, as well as career development skills such as networking and public speaking. 

Headshot of CEHC's Jennifer Goodall.
CEHC Vice Dean Jennifer Goodall. (Photo by Paul Miller)

Goodall brought the event to UAlbany to empower young women to close the gender gap that exists in today’s tech industry. 

“A lot of technology programs today have very few women in them,” she said. “If you look at classes that are geared toward tech, they are mostly male-dominated. But, once you bring women together who are interested in these fields, the community feels much larger and more inclusive. That’s the idea of this conference. We want to bring our students together to see that they belong and are needed, even if they are only one of a few women around the table.”

The four-day conference kicked off on Monday with a “Women in Technology” panel discussion. It featured Barbara Lens, the newly retired assistant director of Information, Technology and Consulting at Dartmouth College, Dolores Cimini, UAlbany’s director of the Center for Behavioral Health Promotion and Applied Research and recent CEHC alums Katie Latko, Monique Wade and Casey Sheridan-Smith, who are all now working tech professionals.

The panelists discussed some of the challenges associated with working in their fields and offered thoughts on how technology will change in the future. They also shared advice for young women who are interested in pursuing STEAM careers. 

“I would say to just be whoever you are and keep persisting,” Cimini said. “Don’t let barriers stop you.”

"Just keep trying. You’ll find your place and you’ll find your niche but it’s going to take some time. Even when you're scared to dip your toe into the tech field, don’t worry. You will find your way,” Latko added.

The conference continues today, highlighted by a “Male Allies” panel discussion. Goodall said it’s just as important for men to be part of the conversation to increase the participation of women in tech.

“This is not a problem for women to solve,” Goodall said. “It's a problem for the whole industry, which is primarily men, to solve together. We need everyone to be part of the solution.”

Tomorrow’s schedule includes a “Cybersecurity Expo and Competition,” open to students of all majors. The emphasis will be on problem solving in cybersecurity, as opposed to a traditional technical hackathon or capture-the-flag exercise. Members of the winning team will each receive a $100 gift card.

Students may sign up as individuals or as teams. Review the sign-up form for additional details.