ACCESS Launches Student Training and Engagement Program (STEP)

A collage of students with the ACCESS STEP program logo overlaid.

ACCESS Operations doesn’t just keep the ACCESS program running on a day-to-day basis. They’re looking out for the cyberinfrastructure professionals of tomorrow. How? By passing on the current CI expertise to students through the Student Training and Engagement Program (STEP). 

Envisioned as a way to provide students with training on marketable skills in the areas of operations, data and networking, and cybersecurity, STEP aims to promote the development of a diverse, competitive STEM workforce by providing opportunities to students, with a focus on recruiting and enrolling students from underrepresented groups (Black, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian), and those who identify as women.

“Our main goal is to contribute to raising the level of awareness about cyberinfrastructure as a viable career path while also providing students with high-quality training that will lead them in the workforce,” said Winona Snapp-Childs, PhD, STEP director and chief operating officer of Indiana University’s Pervasive Technology Institute (PTI). “It’s important that our current cyberinfrastructure expertise gets shared with the next generation of cyberinfrastructure professionals.”

STEP will function as a three-phase program intended for undergraduates or early-career graduate students interested in pursuing careers in cyberinfrastructure. 

The first phase, STEP-1, is a two-week, in-person experience in Miami, May 15-27. It’s open to all, including younger students with less experience. Cyberinfrastructure professionals from around the country will lead this program, helping students become more aware of the many areas of interest within the field, such as web programming, high-performance computing, cybersecurity, networking, and the real use of AI. They will also help students determine their interests and areas of study that they should consider pursuing in the future. Students’ travel and accommodations are provided for this experience, as well as a small stipend.

The STEP program is meant to build awareness, excitement, and enthusiasm for cyberinfrastructure as a profession. We want to have different people sharing their experiences because that puts faces to the work that goes on behind the scenes to make supercomputers, clouds, and all of the other elements work.

Winona Snapp-Childs, STEP director and chief operating officer, Indiana University, Pervasive Technology Institute (PTI)

Students who complete STEP-1, have at least 60 credit hours under their belts, and want to advance further toward a career in cyberinfrastructure can then move on to the second phase of the program, STEP-2, which is a full-time, paid summer internship. In this part of the program, students will work with ACCESS Operations teams on projects in web programming, high-performance computing, cybersecurity, networking and implementations of AI. Plus, they get an all-expenses paid trip to a national research computing conference, PEARC, which will offer great opportunities for learning and networking. 

The third and final phase of the program, STEP-3, is for those looking for a year-round, part-time, paid internship experience. After completing STEP-1 and STEP-2, students will be eligible for STEP-3, where they will continue working (virtually) with their ACCESS Operations team on projects during the academic year. They will also get an expenses-paid trip to the annual SC conference

By and large, STEP is about opening access to cyberinfrastructure careers. It caters to students still determining their interests in this area, as the program focuses on not just one but three sub-areas of cyberinfrastructure: software development, data and networking, and cybersecurity. It’s also open to both domestic and international students; students at all institutions of higher education, including community colleges; and aims to recruit 50% female students.

“Being a cyberinfrastructure professional in the higher-ed space is not a well-known career path. So we are hoping to contribute towards the collective efforts of many by opening this up as a career option for a diverse set of people. We want women, individuals from underrepresented groups, veterans, individuals with disabilities, to feel welcome in this space. All are important to us, so we’re creating that space intentionally,” said Snapp-Childs.

Students interested in applying can learn more and apply here by March 15.

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