• Students who have been actively involved in research may
relate better to the technical content of the conference, even
if they are not presenting.
• If all else fails, a random selection process is a fair way to
choose the students.
Volunteer opportunities: Even if you can fully support your
students’ travel, encourage them to apply for scholarships or
student volunteer positions. These opportunities provide more
than financial support. Often there are special networking
events just for students participating in these programs, such as
an opening reception for scholarship recipients or a concluding
party for student volunteers. Scholarships that cover hotel costs
will often match students with roommates from other institutions. And student volunteers gain the gratitude of conference
presenters and attendees.
Registration: Help students register themselves rather than
registering for them, but support and monitor them in this
process to ensure they register by the deadline. Handling their
own registration allows students to specify their own preferred
name, dietary needs, and any special accommodations. Some
conferences arrange identity group events that attendees must
sign up for in advance; when students register themselves, they
can choose what identities they feel comfortable disclosing.
While having students register themselves has many benefits,
the cost of failing to register is large. You must check in with
your students before the registration deadlines to ensure that
they have remembered to register and that they have done so
successfully. Ask them to provide confirmation of their registration, and help those who are having trouble by inviting them in
to register in your presence so they can ask you questions as they encounter problems. If you have many
students who need to register, consider holding a short
“registration party” so students can help each other.
Travel approval: Work with your institution to understand and meet the requirements for student travel.
Many colleges and universities require pre-approval
before any official trip involving students, and have
specific processes for booking travel. Following these
guidelines not only limits the institution’s liability but
also may provide benefits to you and your students,
such as travel insurance or discounted rates.
Networking: Finally, before the conference make
plans for students to meet alumni or collaborators who
will be attending.
PREPARING STUDENTS FOR THEIR
Organize a preparatory session in which you talk about
conference strategy. Encourage students to read the
conference program in advance and, if there are multiple tracks, mark the sessions they most want to attend.
Also consider the size of the conference and who typically attends. Large, national conferences with a general focus on
computing professions, such as the Grace Hopper Celebration
of Women in Computing, have diverse programs and draw
many employers as well as many undergraduate students. However, very large conferences can be overwhelming and difficult
to navigate. By contrast, small, focused research conferences
may draw only a few professionals and undergraduates, but may
be easier to navigate due to their smaller size.
Finally, consider the students you plan to bring. First- or second-year students are likely to be technically overwhelmed by a
focused research conference, and will likely benefit more from a
conference aimed at a broad audience, while more advanced students who have been actively engaged in research will likely enjoy
putting their work into context in these more specialized venues.
If students are not presenting research, the choice of which students to take can be difficult. Here are some possible considerations.
• First- or second-year students may experience the highest
impact in terms of increased commitment to computer
science [ 2], while more senior students may be best poised
to take advantage of career opportunities.
• Peer educators, student organization officers, and other
student leaders may be best positioned to share what they
learn with other students.
• Students who have attended a conference before can help
mentor and support students for whom this conference will
be their first.
Figure 1: Janet Davis (center) and Whitman College students at the 2016 Richard
Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing, Austin, TX.