Lisa Kanbur is the director of DivTech, previously known as UB Scientista, a student organization dedicated to empowering “underrepresented demographics majoring in Computer Science and Engineering by providing a robust campus community, online resources and opportunities, and a network of talented role models.” With the support of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, DivTech brings together students in technology and provides them with opportunities on and off-campus, such as attending the annual Grace Hopper Celebration, a global gathering of women in tech.
Where are you from?
I'm from Oswego, New York.
Why did you choose to go into computer science?
I chose to go into computer science after I took a course in high school. I struggled through a lot of the course, but at the same time felt challenged by the content in a way that was different from my other classes. I started exploring all the different possibilities within computer science and I think this freedom of the numerous opportunities that involved tech is what influenced my decision to go into computer science and engineering.
What do you like most about engineering at UB?
Engineering at UB has allowed me to become involved in so many things. Through clubs in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering I have found a sense of community with people that motivate me and inspire me every day. I have also been able to explore other interests of mine, such as the humanities, while pursuing my computer science degree. With the new computer science curriculum, you can really explore different areas, such as software, hardware and networking, and artificial intelligence and find what really interests you. Engineering at UB also makes it really easy to pursue other interests. Many of my classmates have minors or double majors in fields that are not part of SEAS, so you have a chance to explore other classes and fields.
What motivated you to be a leader of DivTech?
I have been involved with DivTech since my freshman year. At that time, it was known as UB Scientista, and the club had a whole different aim than it does now. Through my involvement with this club, I met so many awesome women in tech who served as my mentors and eventually became my friends. They provided me with an example of something I could look up to and work towards, which was something I didn't even realize I needed as a freshman. But luckily, I found an amazing community of women in tech. I wanted to become Director because I know how important that experience was for me as a freshman and sophomore, and I wanted to be able to do the same for other students.
What's your favorite part of being in DivTech?
My favorite part about being in DivTech is my awesome eboard that I get to work with this year. I think we make a great team and we all truly understand the importance of this club, along with the benefits of a good support system for women in tech. This makes working together so enjoyable!
What has DivTech been up to?
Last semester we ran a series of Coffee Hours in conjunction with the Department of Computer Science and Engineering where students got to have discussions with DivTech and CSE faculty about diversity and inclusion, systemic racism and sexism, and other important topics! In addition, students could also have more personal discussions with faculty about their own experiences. These served as a great forum for discussion and education about important topics, along with steps we can take to ensure all students feel welcome and appreciated in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.
What are you passionate about?
I'm extremely passionate about increasing and advocating for diversity in STEM, especially in my own Department of Computer Science and Engineering. The diversity and inclusion clubs and initiatives that I have been a part of have provided me with so many opportunities that have allowed me to develop both educationally and professionally, whether through networking opportunities or attending conferences.
In 2019, I attended the Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando, Florida where I met a ton of other amazing women in tech. It was attended by over 26,000 women from around the world. Because of my experience there, I was able to come back to UB and utilize the things I learned not only in a technical aspect, but within my community as well. I learned so much from that experience and I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to come back and spread the knowledge that I gained.
Has there been a particular faculty or staff member that has been formative during your time at UB?
Professor Ethan Blanton has been someone that has cheered me on since he met me freshman year. I feel like any time I need motivation or reassurance he has always been there to help me out, whether it's listening to me vent and offering advice or telling stories about old technology.
What are your future plans?
I hope to work as a software engineer after graduation, specifically working on data analytics and architecture and backend engineering.
What is your advice for prospective students?
I know the initial transition to UB and SEAS can be a little overwhelming since there are so many things going on. It's important to put yourself out there and explore things that you may be interested in. Join clubs, talk to professors and people in your classes and start early. You may not realize it, but a lot of other people are going through the same thing and it's important to remember that. By putting yourself out there, you can form meaningful connections with those around you to create a sense of community. Everyone has a place here; it will just take some effort to find where you thrive!
To learn more about DivTech, contact firstname.lastname@example.org