Jessica Johnsen Will Attend Largest Conference for Women Computer Scientists


Jessica Johnsen

Las Vegas, N.M. ­­– A New Mexico Highlands computer science professor received a faculty scholarship to participate in the world’s largest gathering of women computer scientists.

Jessica Johnsen competed with applicants from across the globe to attend the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Houston from Sept. 26 – 28.

“I think this will be a lifechanging and inspiring opportunity to learn about the latest emerging technology, especially focusing on artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics,” Johnsen said. “It will be revitalizing for my spirit and intellect to network with people from around the globe who love computer science the way that I do, and who are passionate about what they do, just like I am.”

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing was founded in 1994 by the Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology and the Association for Computing Machinery. In 2017, 18,000 women from 81 countries attended the conference.

This isn’t Johnsen’s first time experiencing the Grace Hopper Celebration. She attended in 2011 when she was a computer science graduate student at Highlands. She earned an M.S. in 2014 with 3.9 GPA.

“As a student, this conference was incredibly exciting because I couldn’t believe all of the new technology that we explored and had opportunities to learn in workshops. As a faculty member, I know I’ll be bringing back new ways to get students even more engaged in all the thrilling career opportunities that await them in technology.”

Johnsen is a Las Vegas native who joined the Highlands faculty in 2014. She teaches courses such as Living With Computers, Introduction to Computer Science, Python Programming, and Ethics in Computational Sciences.

“I developed the new ethics course because it’s important for computer science students to use their knowledge for good because they learn many powerful skills that can potentially be misused, harming individuals and society,” Johnsen said.

Gil Gallegos, who chairs the Computer Science Department at Highlands, said Johnsen is a positive and committed role model for all computer science students at Highlands, including women in STEM, science, technology, engineering and math.

“Jessica brings energy, innovation and very strong technical knowledge to the computer science discipline at Highlands,” Gallegos said. “We’re very fortunate to have her on the faculty.”

In 2017, TECHNOLOchicas, an initiative of the National Center for Women and Information Technology, chose Johnsen to be an ambassador for increasing women in technology.

“This Grace Hopper conference will give me more tools to learn how to interest young girls and young women in pursuing careers in technology, where they are still very underrepresented, especially the Hispanic population,” said Johnsen, who is a Latina.

Johnsen said she is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference.

“As a proud Latina in technology, the only female faculty in my department, and a mama of three young children, I feel like I have overcome many boundaries and obstacles to fight my way to where I am today. It’s wonderful to have the chance to experience this conference,” Johnsen said.

Johnsen is active in organizations such as the National Center for Women and Information Technology, Hispanics in Computing, the Computing Research Association for Women, and the Association for Computing Machinery’s Council on Women.

“Ongoing professional development is vital for this ever-changing field of technology,” Johnsen said.