This article is published in the May 2024 issue.

Our Favorite Pics From Grad Cohort for IDEALS and Grad Cohort for Women 2024

By Lauren Lashlee and Richard Elam, CRA-WP 

Grad Cohort for IDEALS and Grad Cohort for Women were co-located for the first time this year and took place at the Hilton Minneapolis from April 11 – 13, 2024. In total, the CRA-Widening Participation committee welcomed more than 350 attendees, participants, and speakers to this year’s combined event, making it one of our biggest and most successful gatherings ever. 

Both programs emphasize the importance of community building, mentorship, and networking to support underrepresented groups in computing. The workshops included formal presentations, informal discussions, and social events, providing a supportive environment for participants to discuss professional development and personal experiences in the computing field.

With this first time co-location, the workshops shared two plenaries: the workshop keynote, by Dilma Da Silva, and Storytelling for Powerful Communication, by guest speaker Margie Zohn. Both sessions were well attended and received. The engagement was high and the energy in both sessions left attendees feeling motivated and ready to finish the semester strong.

📸 Take a look at our favorite pictures from this year’s event: 

Grad Cohort for Women 

Grad Cohort for Women began in 2004 and aims to build a nationwide community by connecting female graduate students in computing fields with senior women in academia and industry. The event focuses on mentoring and developing peer networks, covering survival skills for graduate school, career advice, and personal insights from experienced professionals. It’s designed to increase the ranks of women in computing-related studies and research.

This year’s agenda featured sessions applicable to early graduate students and later years graduate students. A highly attended early years session, “Summer Internships,” featured speakers Cynthia Phillips from Sandia National Labs and Shruthi Kubatur from Apple. View the presentation slides here

From our later years track, our most attended session was “PhD Career Paths and Job Search,” which featured Jodi Tims from Northeastern University and Shruthi Kubatur from Apple (again!). Take a look at the presentation slides here

There is a strong connection with growing job related skills so that these women are able to push open the door into these spaces that have been historically cracked open.

Grad Cohort for IDEALS 

Grad Cohort for IDEALS launched as the Grad Cohort for URMD (Underrepresented Minorities and Persons with Disabilities) in 2018, this workshop addresses broader diversity issues by focusing on inclusion, diversity, equity, accessibility, and leadership skills. The event offers similar networking and mentoring opportunities and is tailored for students from underrepresented groups in computing, including racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQAI+ individuals, persons with disabilities, and veterans. It aims to enhance participants’ professional skills and prepare them for successful careers in computing research and academia.

This year’s agenda featured sessions applicable to early graduate students and later years graduate students. A highly attended early years session, “Industry Vs. Academic Research Positions,” featured speakers Shaun Kane from Google and Pamela Gibbs from AnitaB. Check out the presentation slides here

From our later years track, our highest attended session was “Preparing your Thesis Proposal and Becoming a PhD Candidate,” which featured Dorian Arnold from Emory University and Cheryl Seals from Auburn University. View the presentation slides here

At Grad Cohort Workshop for IDEALS, participants embarked on an enriching journey, engaging with esteemed senior computing researchers and professionals. These mentors generously shared invaluable insights on navigating the challenges of graduate school and offered personal anecdotes, fostering a supportive environment ripe for growth. Through a dynamic blend of formal presentations, lively discussions, and vibrant social events, participants explored diverse pathways in academia and industry, igniting their passion for the field.

Attending the IDEALS Workshop wasn’t just an event; it was a catalyst for profound connections and transformative experiences. Participants forged lasting mentoring relationships and cultivated robust peer networks, laying the groundwork for future endeavors. Empowered by newfound knowledge and inspired by the camaraderie of like-minded peers, they embarked on their graduate journeys with renewed vigor, ready to conquer challenges and seize opportunities, both in academia and beyond.

#CRAGradCohort Social Media Competition 

This year, CRA-WP launched its first ever Grad Cohorts social media competition! We encouraged participants to share their experiences on Facebook, Linkedin, and Instagram using the hashtag “#CRAGradCohort”. Participation in the competition exceeded our expectations and even though the winners were already announced, we still have attendees sharing about their wonderful experiences!

We had two winners this year for our social media competition, find out more about them below!


Ozioma Oguine, University of Notre Dame

Headshot of Ozioma OguineOzioma “Ozzie” Oguine is a 2nd year Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. He is a Graduate Justice Fellow, advised by Dr. Karla Badillo-Urquiola at the EPOCH Research Lab. His research cuts across the intersection of human-computer interaction, online safety & privacy, disability studies, and responsible computing. As an advocate for digital inclusivity, his research focuses on studying the unique online experiences of adolescents from underrepresented and minority backgrounds to develop tailored technology interventions and policies that empower teens to be agents of their online safety.   


“At the IDEALS Workshop, I had the privilege of networking with and discussing with mentors and role models from diverse fields in computing within academia and industry organizations like NASA and Google. The workshop sessions offered me valuable insights on how to prepare for my dissertation proposal, balance graduate school & personal life and how to advocate for myself as a student with disability in graduate school. Engaging with fellow graduate students in my cohort from various colleges sparked fruitful conversations on ideas and experiences, significantly enriching the workshop value overall.” – Ozzie Oguine 


Promise Ekpo, Cornell University

Headshot of Promise EkpoPromise Ekpo Osaine is a Ph.D. student in the Computer Science Department at Cornell University, advised by Prof Angelique Taylor and Prof. Sanjiban Choudhury. Her Ph.D. research investigates techniques to enable safe cooperation and ensure alignment between humans and robots during their collaboration in team settings especially in safety-critical environments such as hospitals. 

Her dedication to diversity, inclusion and academic excellence has been recently recognized through the Women in Technology Cadence Diversity in Tech Award, an honor that underscores her efforts to dismantle barriers and foster a diverse technology community. In Cornell, She has been recognized with the Exemplary Leadership Award for Early Career Graduate Students,2024. 

She completed her Masters in Science of Engineering in the department of Computer Science at Princeton University in United states, 2023 supervised by Prof. Jaime Fernández Fisac. Before that, She received my B.Eng from University of Benin, Nigeria. Before joining Cornell in Summer 2023, She spent eleven weeks as an AI Safety and verification intern doing R&D work at Siemens Technology. Her hobbies are playing the piano and working out at the gym. 

“The CRA-WP Ideals conference was a transformative experience, enriching my professional development and expanding my network significantly. I learnt a lot from the academic workshops which covered everything from preparing a PhD proposal to exploring what research careers in industry and academia look like. Also, I was able to create a WhatsApp group to stay connected with the 24 Nigerians I met during the event. This group was instrumental in organizing meetups after the event and fostering ongoing connections.” – Promise Ekpo Osaine


For more detailed information and to be on the lookout for next year’s Grad Cohorts, you can visit the CRA-WP pages for the Grad Cohort for Women and Grad Cohort for IDEALS.