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Undergrad Silin Zeng recognized with Lisa Simonyi Prize as Allen School celebrates diversity in computing

Lisa Simonyi, Silin Zeng, and Charles Simonyi

Silin Zeng (center) with Lisa Simonyi (left) and Charles Simonyi

Every autumn, the Allen School kicks off the new academic year by highlighting the role of women in computing and sending off our delegation to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in style. This year, we broadened the scope of one of our favorite events of the year to celebrate the contributions of all underrepresented groups and highlight our expanding efforts to broaden participation in the field through activities such as the Grace Hopper conference, the ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing, the College of Engineering’s STARS program, AccessCSForAll, and more.

Nearly 100 students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends gathered in the Paul G. Allen Center last night for our Diversity in Computing reception. The Allen School’s Assistant Director for Diversity & Outreach, Raven Avery, provided an overview of our recent activities, and fifth-year master’s students Melissa Hovik and Nicole Riley shared their experiences representing the Allen School at the Grace Hopper and Tapia conferences, respectively. Anat Caspi, Director of the Taskar Center for Accessible Technology, was also on hand to discuss how members of the Allen School community can get involved in the center’s work to promote inclusive design practices and produce technologies that increase independence and improve quality of life for people with motor and speech impairments.

Another of the evening’s highlights came when Charles and Lisa Simonyi, longtime friends and supporters of the Allen School, announced undergraduate Silin Zeng as the winner of the 2018 Lisa Simonyi Prize. The award recognizes a student each year who exemplifies the Allen School’s commitment to excellence, inclusiveness, and leadership. Zeng, who is in her final year at UW majoring in Computer Science and Finance, is an alumna of the UW Academy early entrance program for exceptionally talented students run by the Robinson Center for Young Scholars. She has been an enthusiastic contributor to the campus community as Treasurer of the UW chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Creative Director for the Asian Business Student Association, and a member of ACM-W and the Society of Women Engineers. She also has completed internships at Microsoft and Goldman Sachs — an experience that galvanized her commitment to advancing diversity via her work with ACM and as a mentor to her peers. As Lisa Simonyi noted when announcing the award, Zeng has spunk.

Thanks to the Simonyis for supporting diversity and excellence, and thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate the people who are making our school and our field a more welcoming destination for all. And congratulations to Silin on her well-deserved recognition for putting these values into practice every day!

For more about our efforts to advance diversity in computing, read about the Allen School’s contributions to this year’s Tapia conference in a recent blog post here, and check out our inclusiveness statement here.