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Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative: 'It Takes a Village' to Improve Diversity and Inclusion in Information Technology

Apr 30, 2019, by Sara Aly
Tags: 2019 Internet2 Global Summit, Inclusivity Initiative Award, Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative

Five years ago, the Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative, formerly called the Gender Diversity Initiative, was created by our community to focus resources, attention, and scholarships at improving diversity and inclusion for networking and technical professionals.

In just these few years, a range of scholarships and fellowships have supported more than 40 women and underrepresented minorities from the U.S., Colombia, Laos, Nepal, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, and Zambia. 

All made possible in collaboration with organizations from our community who are committed to supporting a diverse and inclusive IT workforce across the broad research and higher education community – Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC), Women in IT Networking at SC (WINS), and industry members and supporters, including Cirrus Identity, Cisco Systems, Code42, DLT Solutions, Duo Security, Fortinet, Microsoft, Palo Alto Networks, ServiceNow, Skyhigh Networks, SplunkOracle Dyn, and Wasabi.

We encourage you to nominate someone from your organization for a future Internet2 meeting. Scholarships are awarded twice a year — once during Global Summit and once during the Technology Exchange — to underrepresented IT professionals working at Internet2 member organizations and attending their first Internet2 meeting. Please visit the Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative page for more information. 

Looking for additional ways to get involved? Consider joining the Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative mailing list by sending an email to with the following subject line SUBSCRIBE: The Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative wiki space is another great online tool for resources.

L-R: Marla Meehl (UCAR manager and Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative steering committee co-chair), Katelyn Russell, Erin Plese, Nuyun Zhang, Kaitlin Helfter, Rachael Collard, and Ana Hunsinger (VP, community engagement at Internet2).

The five scholarship recipients from the 2019 Global Summit meeting, pictured above, share their highlights from attending their first Internet2 meeting:

Rachael Collard
Publicity and Marketing Coordinator
Connecticut Education Network

I would like to thank Internet2 and its members for the incredible amount of knowledge and support that was extended to the inclusivity scholarship recipients during the 2019 Global Summit. The program was well planned and executed from start to finish. From the second we arrived, until we departed, we were welcomed, guided, mentored and encouraged by everyone we encountered. Our mentors were genuinely interested in learning more about us individually, and they offered advice and guidance in our professional development both educationally and in the workplace. Personally, I was able to meet professionals with a wide range of experience levels from similar research and education networks, share common issues, learn from their best practices, and gain insights to share with my organization. I loved hearing from K-12 teachers directly on how they are using advanced computer networking in the classroom and how excited their students are when they interact with other students around the world during the Community Anchor Program session. I am looking forward to sharing that knowledge with CEN's K-12 members. The keynote speakers were inspirational and entertaining. As organizer of the CEN member conference, I found much value in seeing how the Internet2 Global Summit was executed. I came away with new and exciting ideas for our conference that will enhance the experience for our members. I arrived at the summit a little nervous and overwhelmed, and I left feeling nurtured, confident, and eager to learn more. It truly was a wonderful experience and I look forward to the possibility of returning as a mentor for next year’s inclusivity scholarship recipients.
Kaitlin Helfter
Emerging IT Professional in ITaP Research Computing
Purdue University

The Global Summit conference was a great experience and an amazing opportunity to connect with the other scholarship winners and others in the tech industry. Between all the recommended sessions to go to, there was enough time to attend several sessions I was interested in, including topics in cyber security and networking which will help me later in my career. The two keynote presenters had amazing presentations and I am glad I was able to attend.
Erin Plese
Information Security Analyst — Intermediate
Northern Arizona University

Although I am new to the IT field, I gained so much knowledge from speaking with so many individuals whether they were from the vendor booths, out in the industry, or from my fellow higher education colleagues. I was a bit nervous when I first arrived because I was afraid that everything would have been too technical, and I would have been lost. Although there were some highly technical sessions, of the sessions that I did attend, I was able to keep up and understand the content in which it focused. Additionally, there were several sessions that I attended and was able to further develop my understanding of the content, therefore, allotting me the ability to follow along and grow in my own expertise. Many of the women we met were able to describe their experience in the IT field and how they arrived at their current path. They are so inspiring!  Also, I was so amazed to have the support of so many men within IT, which I've never experienced until I began my new career, it gives me hope that there is a better path for equality within this vast career field. Overall, I look back at my time in DC as an amazing experience. The Internet2 community truly is a family who shows their support for one another, and I am so happy I am now able to be part of this amazing team! I look forward to being able to contribute to the Internet2 community as much as possible in my very near future.
Katelyn Russell
Systems Administrator II
University of Texas at Austin

I had such a wonderful experience at the Internet2 Global Summit. The scholarship allowed me truly invaluable networking opportunities, during which I got to share in genuine connections with people I likely wouldn’t have met otherwise. The Internet2 community is infectious with the passion for their work. The lunches, breakfasts, and every opportunity in-between to interact with other professionals and find out how their careers have progressed were enriching. Then, on top of meeting people within the community, it was such an honor to meet and participate in the conference with my fellow awardees. The panels and discussions helped me build a broader context for projects that are ongoing within my own organization. I enjoyed learning how other teams have accomplished their own two-factor and other authentication projects. The panel discussion on diversity and inclusion was also very well conducted, with such a good diversity of experience and background and among one of my favorite moments of the conference. The accommodations and features of the conference were wonderful. I did love the talks and had wonderful interactions with everyone within the Internet2 community. 
Nuyun Zhang
Research Scientist
Georgia Institute of Technology

The opportunity to meet with colleagues from the broad research and education community and have meaningful conversations around professional development and work-life balance was both timely and motivational for me. I felt encouraged to nurture my curiosity and left the event feeling confident and inspired. I was also able to reconnect with a former colleague that I hadn’t seen in years! A memorable experience for me was a conversation with Howard Pfeffer on putting leadership into action. I’m grateful to have had the support of my home institution and IT organization in nominating me for this opportunity.