Harrisburg, PA (Oct. 7) — In the midst of record growth in connections, services and support to organizations across the commonwealth, KINBER has promoted and created several initiatives to increase diversity in the commonwealth’s information technology networking and infrastructure workforce.
“Increasing workforce diversity in advanced network and IT in general offers different perspectives and approaches to challenges, which provides sound solutions that ultimately strengthen our infrastructure and improve our communities,” said Wendy Huntoon, president and CEO of KINBER, who served as a panelist discussing key barriers to gender diversity at the Internet2 2016 Technology Exchange last week in Miami, Fla.
KINBER has participated in several initiatives to strengthen and diversify the IT workforce. KINBER partnered with University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and the Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) to create the WINS “Women in IT Networking at SC” initiative, which resulted in five women receiving funding to participate in the prestigious 2015 Supercomputing Conference (SC15). Kyongseon (Kathy) West of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, one of the five WINS awardees, joined the volunteer workforce that put together SCinet, a high capacity network for the conference. Now in its second year, WINS just announced seven awardees for 2016 selected from 33 applicants from 13 states.
In addition KINBER’s Director of Community Engagement, Jennifer Oxenford, received The Quilt’s Member Travel Grant for Next-Generation R&E Networking Leaders to attend its 2015 Fall Member Meeting in Austin. The Quilt encouraged women and minority candidates to apply for the grant, which was designed to help cultivate future leaders.
Both Huntoon and Oxenford play an active role in the Internet2 Gender Diversity Initiative, which provides support for emerging information technology women professionals to attend Internet2 technical conferences. The exposure to the conference supports their entry into the information technology field and the Internet2 community.
Inspired by the success of these other programs, this year KINBER created its own initiative aimed at broadening participation in the field of advanced networking technology: the KINBER Diversity Scholarship. Each scholarship includes admission to KINBER’s annual conference as well as registration for one technical workshop of the awardee’s choice.
Applications for the scholarship were encouraged from women and minority applicants as well as from individuals who have never previously attended a KINBER annual conference, and four scholarships were awarded during the inaugural year to:
• Jennifer Kim, Second Shift IT Manager, Montgomery County Community College
• Debra Geoghan, Professor /Area Coordinator Computer and Information Science, Bucks County Community College
• Michelle Simms, Ed.D., Director of Instructional Technology, Gwynedd Mercy University
• William F. Kershner II, M.S.Ed., IT Systems Manager, Gwynedd Mercy University
Commenting on the value of her KINBERCON experience, scholarship recipient Jennifer Kim said, “I’m sure everyone shares the sentiment that the inaugural Diversity Scholarship program was a huge success and had a deep and positive impact for all of us. I hope this program will be continued in years to come.”
Noting that every session he attended was packed full of amazing content, ideas, and sharing, Kershner said, “The community that exists among those gathered at KINBERCON 2016 was inspiring and my biggest aha or takeaway was probably the recognition that such a community – with its great creative energy, openness, and collaborative opportunities – is very powerful and can (and does) lead to great change, opportunity, and advancement in the fastmoving internetsteeped world in which we live and work.”
Feedback from all of the recipients was overwhelmingly positive and reinforced the importance of this opportunity.
KINBERCON 2016 also featured Women In IT Networking WINS, a session featuring a stellar panel with Huntoon, West, and Florence Hudson, Senior Vice President & Chief Innovation Officer of Internet2. West provided insight into her experience at SC15 and Huntoon and Hudson discussed their own experiences in the field as well as the Internet2 Gender Diversity Initiative. The well-attended session highlighted the current lack of girls and women in computing and technology, the value of diversity and discussed approaches to increase participation, support and retention of women and other underrepresented populations in technology.
Reflecting on SC15, West said, “This was one of the greatest opportunities I have ever had. The whole SCinet team was extremely dedicated to the project and I can’t believe that I was part of it. It was a long two weeks but in the end it was worth every hour.”
Given the positive reception to its diversity initiatives, KINBER will continue to promote diversity in IT through both regional and national efforts and will build on the success of the KINBER Diversity Scholarship program by offering it again for the 2017 KINBERCON annual conference taking place in Pittsburgh April 3-5, 2017.
The Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER) is Pennsylvania’s statewide research, education and community network. The non-profit membership organization is comprised of education, healthcare, economic development, libraries, public media, government and other non-profit organizations devoted to fostering collaboration through technology. Established in 2010 through a $99.6 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, KINBER provides network connectivity and services to more than 80 organizations in Pennsylvania. KINBER is committed to delivering equitable, reliable and affordable digital infrastructure and tools to inspire tomorrow’s scientific discoveries, enable the exchange of ideas and culture among diverse populations, educate the next generation of citizens and revitalize Pennsylvania’s economy. For more information, visit http://KINBER.org or follow @KINBER on Twitter.