Fueling the Next Generation of Leaders and Luminaries

IEEE Computer Society Team
Published 04/19/2024
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Leaders and Luminaries at IEEE Computer SocietyThe IEEE Computer Society (CS) strives to assemble and inspire a diverse group of industry leaders to advance the fields of computer science and engineering. In fact, it’s a critical part of our organizational mission. However, to succeed, these efforts need to target not only today’s scientists and engineers but also tomorrow’s potential practitioners.

From this concept, the Leaders and Luminaries program emerged. Orchestrated by Kit August, an active IEEE CS volunteer, the program uses a multipronged approach to bring STEM students, their teachers, and mentors together in meaningful ways. Made possible through IEEE CS funding, the Leaders and Luminaries program has launched activities designed to leave an impression on students and mentors alike and support impactful advances in STEM to better our world.


The fundamentals of each offering

Though activities are wide and varied, the Leaders and Luminaries program relies on three core principles for each initiative:

  1. Diversity. These programs aim to go deeper than a surface level and engage input from students and mentors with a wide berth of social and ethnic backgrounds. Diverse teams can collectively be more innovative and tackle problems more creatively. The future of STEM depends on broad imaginative thought, and thus, all programs are more successful with diverse attendance. For all the Leader and Luminaries programs, STEM students and mentors from all social classes are invited and given opportunities for engagement.
  2. Real-world engagement. Direct learning helps students understand how an idea comes to life and is implemented. Mentors from industry are invaluable in this regard, teaching and encouraging students how technology can ‘jump off the page’ and be used in everyday life. Strikingly, mentors, too, have an opportunity to gain experience from attendees and can gather insight into how their experience is meaningful and relevant in the real world today and thus build for the future.
  3. Long-lasting learning. Programs must be both enjoyable and memorable in order for discovery and invention to occur. Accordingly, many parts of the Leaders and Luminaries program are accompanied by follow-on resources and are recorded and offered not only to attendees and IEEE members, but more broadly to the communities who need them such as teachers and camp counselors.


Sample initiatives

A number of different activities constitute the full Leaders and Luminaries program. The gold standard is “Lunch with Leaders and Luminaries,” where STEM students can pitch ideas to mentors for feedback or discuss topics of interest with experts in the field. The students and mentors frequently rotate throughout the day to ensure a broad, interactive experience with varied advice. Students come from diverse backgrounds, and mentors are garnered from IEEE membership, industry, academia, government, and community. The value of the in-person program is irreplaceable, but fortunately, this program can be similarly replicated virtually, which increases access and reach and reduces costs.

For hands-on, real-world engagement, STEM students in this program also participate in the “Day at the Museum” outing to explore innovations and learn the full cycle of how they came to fruition and the positive impact they have had on society. This event also provides a powerful chance to highlight minority inventions and encourage students to keep focused and strive for STEM advancements that one day may be featured at a museum.

In addition, Leaders and Luminaries features two more in-depth learning initiatives: the “Watch Party” and “Technical Sessions.” Both programs present technical material, but the former is a relaxed atmosphere for additional discussion and socialization and the latter is a more typical presentation.

Finally, the program offers what’s dubbed a “Webinar Library.” Whenever inspiration strikes (for instance with the recent solar eclipse), a webinar is created and made accessible via various STEM platforms, so it is readily available for individual use or for application as part of larger events. This program works to facilitate life-long learning through continued access to STEM material.


Future Impact

While the Leaders and Luminaries program has a solid foundation, it continues to evolve and grow. Recognizing students are the future of STEM and teachers offer the pathway to information, connecting the two with mentors experienced in building and maintaining STEM solutions creates newfound potential. In fact, with the right attention today, these participants are on the journey to identify their STEM path, with the future only limited by their imagination.