By Katie E. Ismael
Soon after last fall quarter began and the campus was showing signs of prepandemic life, the leaders of the Graduate Women in Computing or GradWIC at UC San Diego thought it would be helpful for the new students to become acclimated to their unfamiliar surroundings and to the large and potentially intimating city of San Diego.
So GradWIC leaders organized a day where they took the newest Tritons on the bus and trolley systems to help give them the lay of the land and feel a part of the community-- on campus and beyond.
That is just one example of the benefit of belonging to a Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) student organization.
If a computer science student at UC San Diego is interested in networking, developing technical know-how or helping the community more broadly, there is an organization for them.
“The student organizations give a home base and a community that can really be personalized to a student’s priorities. They are often a really great source of long-lasting relationships and give an opportunity to go beyond the catalog requirements of a degree and make it a meaningful time in their lives,” said Mia Minnes, the vice chair for undergraduate education at CSE who coordinates with the seven CSE-affiliated groups.
More than allowing students to go beyond the classroom, Minnes notes the department encourages student agency and autonomy with their organization.
“The orgs are one of those places where there’s an opportunity to set the agenda instead of following someone else's agenda,” she said. “Students have the autonomy and voice to shape things.”
The organizations allow computer science students to explore different aspects of their academic, professional and personal lives:
They can focus on skill building and gain self-study opportunities, such as through the Video Game Development Club @ UCSD (VGDC).
“The Video Game Development Club @ UCSD is a support group and all-around friendly community for game development at UC San Diego. We feature several beginner-friendly events, including quarterly game jams, projects, socials, and workshops,” said Matthew Lawrence, a third year CSE major.
Then there are groups focused on networking and helping students take the next step to building a career, such as through talks by alumni, mock interviews and resume reviews. A prime outlet for this is the Association for Computing Machinery at UC San Diego (ACM@UCSD).
“ACM is an organization dedicated to all those interested in code, design, and innovation. From team-based projects every quarter to 1-1 mentorship, the goal is to foster a member-first community that anyone from any background can call home,” said Stanley Lee, a fourth-year Cognitive Science major with a specialization in Design and Interaction.
Students interested in helping the community can teach others how to build websites, apps, and code through projects with CS Foreach and Triton Software Engineering (TSE), making engineering and tech more available to everyone.
“Triton Software Engineering (TSE) is a multidisciplinary student organization. We partner with nonprofit organizations to design and develop software pro-bono for social good, while giving our members practical, real-world experience,” said Shravan Konduru, a second year CSE major.
In an identity-based group, such as GradWIC, students explore how CS can be a field where everyone and every perspective is recognized.
“GradWIC seeks to build community for historically minority groups within computing at UC San Diego and beyond. A student interested in joining GradWIC as an identifying member or as an ally might want to get to know the broader women in computing community here at UC San Diego, build up their skill set for supporting themselves or others (bystander training, allyship workshops, attending diversity conferences like Grace Hopper and Tapia), or want to do some outreach events on campus and local schools,” said Jennifer Chien, a third year CSE PhD student. For undergrads with similar interests, they can become involved with UndergradWIC,
The Computer Science and Engineering Society (CSES) is another place where those passionate about computer science and engineering at UC San Diego can have a forum. The group offers tech talks, social events, outreach and more.The department support for these groups is strong, Minnes notes, with access to resources such as rooms and spaces, financial support and the ability to connect with staff and alumni resources.
For more information on CSE-affiliated student organizations, please visit: https://cse.ucsd.edu/index.php/student-organization.