The Association for Women in Computing at Virginia Tech
Updated: Nov 17, 2021
What is your name, major, and role?
Asha Cheruvu: I am Asha Cheruvu! I was a double major in computer science and computational modeling and data analytics. I’m coming back this spring semester as a Master of Engineering student in computer science with a concentration in data analytics in machine learning. I am the Vice President of AWC this year. I’m in charge of coordinating our meetings and helping the president in whatever way I can.
Ashita Anuga: My name is Ashita Anuga. I am a computer science major and I am a sophomore at Virginia Tech. My role in AWC is the CAMEO chair! I am responsible for representing my organization.
What is AWC and the organization’s mission?
Cheruvu: It’s a club for everyone! The goal is to promote women on the same level as men when it comes to different STEM careers and industries. Our big mission is to level the playing field and put us on the map the same way men are and find opportunities that will help us grow in our careers, and just support other women in that particular endeavor.
Anuga: It stands for the Association of Women in Computing, but anyone can join! You just have to support women in tech and the overall mission is to promote more women going into tech. To do this, we hold a lot of general body meetings. We also have networking opportunities, and if you join as a member we give you opportunities to hear from companies. Connections essentially get you into this male-dominated industry.
“Connections essentially get you into this male-dominated industry.”
Why should students get involved in AWC?
Cheruvu: It’s a great club for anyone and everyone! We have people that aren’t even STEM majors that are in the club because they want to see the initiatives that are out there for women to advance their careers. We have company meetings, and networking and mentorship opportunities, so you can connect with upperclassmen and people of different majors. We also have this very inclusive nature — we’ve had men on our board of officers in the past as well. We’ve had men attend our meetings because of the sheer amount of opportunities that we get, and all the companies that really want to connect with us.
Anuga: I joined AWC last year as a freshman. I also joined a lot of female-empowering organizations, like Hypatia. In my case, AWC was the best fit for me because it focused on computing. As a computer science major, the opportunities that I got were a lot more focused on my field. These kinds of organizations are where you get to meet a lot of people who are just like you. It tends to be awkward and a little more difficult to make the same connections with your male peers when you’re walking into the classroom and there are like 60 dudes and just three girls. So getting yourself a network of women around you who are going through the same thing as you is very important
What is one big standout event that AWC holds?
Cheruvu: A big event is Women in Computing Day. We host that around maybe March or April and it’s more of an outreach event for middle school girls. We rent out the CRC and have around four different workshops for the girls to participate in. It’s a great opportunity for them to learn about different computing topics that they probably otherwise wouldn’t have. In the past, we’ve introduced cryptography, robotics, animation, circuitry, programming. These workshops are often either conducted by our members or a professor that we have been working with for a long time.
Anuga: We host HackViolet, which used to be called SheHacks. Anyone can join this competition, but it focuses on female empowerment! This was actually my first hackathon. I think it was intimidating to get into it, especially as a freshman when you don’t know anything, but I had a great experience even though I didn’t do a project. It’s great for networking and if you want to do a project, that’s even better.
Tell me more about AWC’s plans for the upcoming spring semester!
Cheruvu: We have a presentation scheduled with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. They’re going to be presenting on women in STEM and on the reasons why women are such a minority in that particular field. We’re excited to speak to them about our mission statement and get a deeper understanding of how it works. We also have a couple of things coming up with Capital One. We’re also hoping to add a research panel as well to cater to those who might want to get into undergraduate research.
Anuga: During the fall semester, we were trying to see how it would go with doing more technically focused meetings instead of professional development like we’ve done in the past and it’s worked out pretty well. We’ve gotten good feedback! So, we’re thinking about carrying forward with that more in the spring. But for now, it’s just mostly trying to get more people to sign onto Zoom meetings and changing the direction to professional development and technically focused meetings that are hosted and co-hosted by industry professionals.
What is your favorite memory from your time at AWC?
Cheruvu: I was previously the Women in Competing Day co-chair for a couple of years. Part of that day includes having to go out and snacks for all the kids. I remember going to Walmart with my co-chair and filling up two whole carts of chips, soda, juice boxes, and candy! I remember on the day of the event we were arranging everything, and when it was time for snacks the kids’ eyes grew wide. I was in that position for two years because it’s a cause so close to my heart. It was a great experience just watching the kids go wild and have a good time doing the workshops. I love that event.
Anuga: My favorite memory from AWC is my first hackathon. I was reluctant to go but I messaged the officer who was in charge and she was giving me all the information that I needed. I didn’t know anything because I was a freshman, but these two senior girls kind of adopted me, which was nice. They were talking to me and giving me advice about computer science. Although I didn’t do a project that year, I still got to talk to different people from different companies and partake in all of that good networking stuff. It was a great experience because I wasn’t expecting it to go that way at all. Even though I didn’t like do a project, it was fine because it let me comfortably dip my toes into the water when it came to hackathons!