Meta-TA Zach Kirschenbaum Helps Represent Brown CS At The Out For Undergraduate Tech Conference


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Zach Kirschenbaum (he/him), a junior CS concentrator at Brown University, doesn't even remember how he found out about the Out for Undergrad (O4U) Tech conference, which is designed to help high-achieving LGBTQ undergrads in software development and technology reach their full potential. "I honestly think I saw an ad because Facebook figured out that I'm gay. I'd never heard of it, and it sounded really great." He adds that Laura Dobler, Staff Diversity Coordinator for Brown CS, was also very helpful in obtaining information about the event.

For Zach, who is one of the coordinators of the Brown University Queer Alliance, there were several reasons why he wanted to attend. "I wanted to connect with more established queer folks in tech. Queerness isn't something you see when you look at a person, and even if you know someone is queer it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a resource. But I also really wanted to establish a community with other queer people my age who are in the sciences and going through recruiting and similar things."

O4U Tech prides itself on accessibility, and so Zach and other attendees received an all-expense-paid trip to San Francisco, where the conference was held at Twitter's headquarters. The agenda was extremely varied, with keynotes, talks, roundtables for affinity groups like queer people of color and trans folks, mentoring sessions, a pitch session for entrepreneurs, lightning talks, a career fair, and more. "I really liked the focus on being authentic," Zach says. "We talked a lot about how queer folks will sometimes try to act straighter in professional settings. I am guilty of this – sometimes I feel like I've been more careful how I talk or dress so people wouldn’t make assumptions about my technical abilities."

The conference is over, but a massive group chat continues online, and Zach says it's a great source of support. He hopes to return to the conference next year with company: "I'd really like to see more participation from Brown CS. I want students, especially folks just getting started out in computer science, to know that it's super-intersectional and accessible, with all costs covered.”

Zach was recently hired as a Meta-TA along with Eleanor Avril ‘20, who will join the current Meta-TAs, Alyssa Baum ‘18 and Katya Schwiegershausen ‘18, to coordinate the UTA Program. “I'd be more than happy to talk to anyone about the conference and/or the UTA program – feel free to reach out via email, Facebook, or even if you see me in the CIT."

We asked him to brainstorm: what else would he like to see here at Brown CS? "Gender pronouns aren't really something that people talk about, so I think it’s definitely a conversation worth having. I’d also like students to know that there are conferences and scholarship opportunities specifically for LGBTQ folks in STEM, which isn’t something I was aware of until recently. I love the Brown CS community and I can’t wait to see more of us at O4U next year!"

Applications for the Fall 2018 O4U Tech conference will open next spring.

For more information, click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communication Outreach Specialist Jesse C. Polhemus.