Welcoming, Encouraging, and Invigorating: Internet2 Inclusivity Scholarship Recipients Reflect on the TechEX22 Experience

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By Taleitha McGuinnis - Program Manager, Affiliates & Federal Affiliates

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The resounding sentiment from participants at the 2022 Technology Exchange – including this year’s Internet2 Inclusivity (I2I) Scholarship recipients – was how wonderful it was to be together again in person. Of the more than 630 attendees at TechEX, 21% identified as women, tying for the highest-ever participation of women at an Internet2 annual event.

Among the key goals of the I2I initiative are to continually increase the participation of women at Internet2 annual events, help them engage within and across the research and education (R&E) community, and support them in growing their professional networks. The I2I Scholarship is one of several resources that assist in helping to achieve these goals.

In addition to full financial support to attend an annual conference, recipients are paired with mentors from across the R&E community, have the opportunity to engage with international Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) Fellows and Women in Networking at SC (WINS) attendees, and attend a wide variety of sessions that offer something for new learners as well as more experienced professionals. The experience is a gateway to future professional opportunities such as participation in community working groups, participation in future I2I activities – including as a mentor for scholarship recipients or as a member of the I2I Steering Committee – as well as collaborative opportunities with other organizations.  

New Year, New I2I Opportunity
We look forward to continuing the conversation and are excited about the next opportunity to offer I2I scholarships at the upcoming 2023 Internet2 Community Exchange in Atlanta, Ga., from May 8-11.

The I2I scholarship application window is now open! The deadline to submit an application or to nominate an individual is March 1, 2023, at 5 p.m. CT. The scholarship provides funding to support emerging information technology women professionals to attend their first Internet2 event. Registration, flights, and hotel are all covered by the scholarship.

Reflections From the I2I Scholarship Recipients

Here are the highlights from what this year’s four Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative scholarship awardees shared in their reflections about attending their first Internet2 conference:

“Attending the Internet2 Technology Exchange this year in Denver through the I2I program was a wonderful experience! Being able to bond with my fellow scholarship awardees, as well as engage in conversation with the assigned mentors every day at breakfast and lunch, was personally gratifying. (It also made my first IT conference much less intimidating!) The mentors thoughtfully answered our questions about changes in the industry, how to make more opportunities for women in IT, and how they navigated their own career paths.” — Emily Chahar, IT Project Manager at the University of Delaware

“As I was sitting on the 16th street bus in downtown Denver headed to the hotel, I noticed the gentleman sitting across from me had an Internet2 jacket; I introduced myself and we chatted the rest of the (short) bus ride to the hotel. He introduced himself as Nick, a member of the Internet2 team. The next day, Nick made a point of finding me and saying hello at the conference and checking in throughout the week to see how my conference experience was going. He was not part of the I2I program group, nor part of the conference planning group, but made a point to be welcoming to a first-time attendee. This was just one of many positive interactions I had with many Internet2 staff and the TechEX22 attendees – they were welcoming, encouraging, and went out of their way to be kind.” — Allison (Ally) Hepp, Systems Engineer at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County

“Over the course of the week, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet so many technology experts that were eager to share their knowledge and expertise. With many of us coming together for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, you could tell people were excited to be together to engage and share experiences. Efforts to bring the I2I awardees together often during the conference was one of the major positive impacts for me personally. I instantly felt a bond with the other awardees, and it was refreshing to hear their stories and to share our experiences as women working in tech.” — Steffanie Johnson, IT Security Risk Analyst and Team Lead with the Office of Cybersecurity at the University of Wisconsin–Madison

“I was excited to see research professionals come together and share their experiences in many different facets. The sessions were invigorating and allowed for participants to have conversations with the speakers in a personal and informal manner, which was unique to this event. ​​As a result of this scholarship, I was able to connect with others who have similar passions to mine. Attending the conference sessions provided me the information necessary to join working groups that continue to advance research in higher education. I was also able to create connections with individuals at different research institutions to establish partnerships and learning opportunities.”— Nicole Klueber, Systems Integration Engineer for the Institute for Computational and Data Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University

Watch videos of other I2I winners on the Internet2 YouTube page!

Learn more from past scholarship recipients about how the experience has impacted their careers. 

These opportunities are made possible through the commitment and joint sponsorship of Internet2 community members. We appreciate the ongoing support of our community members and thank the industry member sponsors Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks, LastPass, and SaltyCloud for supporting the 2022 TechEX I2I Scholarship.

Panel Discussion on Creating a Mentorship Program

I2I logo

In addition to sponsoring participation for scholarship recipients, a key focal point of the I2I initiative is a hosted luncheon and presentation on diversity, equity, inclusivity, and career development. At TechEX 2022, the I2I luncheon featured a panel discussion on “Creating a Mentorship Program.” We were honored to have a diverse group of panelists from across the community. The panel was moderated by Dedra Chamberlin, Cirrus Identity CEO and founder, and it included former I2I scholarship awardee Forough Ghahramani, NSRC fellow Khoudia Gueye, WINS participant Brenna Meade, and Ryan MacTaggart, associate director for professional learning at EDUCAUSE. 

Each panelist brought a unique perspective on their experiences – from being a mentee to being a mentor to others, as well as creating and supporting mentorship programs for diverse communities. Panelists shared the importance of identifying and addressing barriers to creating a mentor/mentee relationship, including language, personal commitments outside of work/professional life, and funding.  Many of these barriers prevent individuals, particularly those from traditionally underrepresented populations, from even seeking mentorship opportunities. Panelists identified imposter syndrome as another barrier, particularly for women, that must be addressed in order for individuals to seek out a mentoring relationship. They stressed that once a mentoring relationship is created, it is key for mentors and mentees to maintain a regular dialogue – a minimum of once per month – to ensure shared understanding, growth of the mentee, and a positive, successful experience. 

More than one panelist shared how being a mentee changed their professional life and led to them now giving back as mentors and leaders in the ongoing struggle toward increased diversity, equity, and inclusion. Attendees were encouraged to support mentorship opportunities and for potential mentees to identify opportunities for mentorship through one of the many professional organizations that offer such programs.