“I was instantly hooked on CS after taking my first class”, said CS junior Elia Chen. “I loved applying my creativity and problem-solving skills to build things that can make an impact on others.”
When she came into Rice, Chen wasn’t sure what she wanted to study. Exploring different subjects while accumulating appropriate distribution credits, she signed up for COMP 140 in her first semester at Rice and was instantly hooked.
Unfortunately, early on, she had begun to feel she wasn’t performing as well as some of her classmates in COMP 140 and decided to find or create a community offering support and resources for similar students. When she stumbled upon CSters – a community for women in CS – she found exactly what she was looking for.
“I thought the COMP 140 projects were really challenging, and CSters provided the kind of support I needed, like sitting down to do homework with other women in my CS courses as well as getting to meet upperclassmen who had been through what I was going through,” Chen said. “Honestly, looking back, getting involved in CSters was one of the best decisions I’ve made at Rice.”
Now the club’s External President, Chen said the CSters officers arrange events throughout the academic year to meet the current needs of their members and create a strong, supportive community for women in CS. As the External President, she has led efforts to build an alumni directory, as a way to increase alumni involvement in the club. Over the summer, she also raised double the amount of money raised in previous years to fully cover the travel and registration costs of sending 18 CSters to the national Grace Hopper Conference that is held in Orlando, Florida this year.
“I’m grateful for the CSters officer team,” Chen said. “They’re all very passionate about CSters, and are all-around great people.”
According to Chen, a core part of CSters is their Big and Little Sister program creates opportunities for one-on-one mentoring between experienced and new students, members offer each other advice and tips like how to find and interview for internships.
“From resume reviews to tech talks, we sponsor a lot of networking events to create a welcoming environment where women in CS to find the resources and support they need to succeed in the field,” said Chen. “We are a very strong community, we’re all friends with each other, and we help each other.
The CSters Big and Little mentorship program led to her second internship. “When I was a freshman, my big sister mentor was Lauren Khoo, who interned that summer with Microsoft. She took a very proactive role in guiding me. Her excitement was contagious and I felt encouraged, hearing from someone who had thrived and succeeded in the CS program here.”
“Lauren was really inspiring. In fact, I applied for a Microsoft internship because Lauren had told me such great things about it,” Chen said. “Without her guidance and mentorship, I would definitely not be in the same place today and might not have even stuck with CS.”
Chen interned at Microsoft in San Francisco, working as part of an engineering team that was part of a recently acquired startup. It was different from her first internship, working in Sales and Marketing at Intel – an internship that she credits Rice alumnus Intel Vice President Vince Hu for making such a great experience – but she enjoyed the experience nonetheless.
Chen advises new students to find a group or community providing support and resources throughout the Rice’s CS program. “Keep your eyes open for a community where you feel like you really belong and where you can thrive. For me, that community is CSters.”