Earlier this month, six mentors from the Inclusive AI initiative at the UvA Institute for Informatics (UvA-IAI) took their mentees on a field trip to the BNAIC/BENELEARN 2019 conference in Brussels, with financial support from a Grassroots Science4all grant.
UvA IAI takes its inspiration from organisations such as Black in AI, Women in ML and Queer in AI, which all aim to celebrate diversity and foster participation from underrepresented groups in AI. In the IAI initiative, young AI researchers establish a similar space for Master's students Artificial Intelligence at the UvA. Mentor Maximilian Ilse, PhD candidate in IvI's AMLab, explains: 'For all six mentees this was the first conference visit. We all know that the first conference visit can be an intimidating experience, especially when you belong to a group that is currently underrepresented in the field of AI. Attending your first conference together with a senior mentor can be beneficial in a variety of situations, like starting a conversation during a coffee break, better understanding a talk or presentation. In addition, a group of familiar people can act as safe space during the conference.'
For all mentees, the conference visit was a positive first experience, which hopefully encourages them to pursue an academic career in the future.
The Faculty of Science wants to be an inclusive community where every person, regardless of race, gender or cultural background, feels welcome and valued. Looking for ways to stimulate diversity of our community, the Faculty of Science started the Science4all Grassroots programme. Students and staff were invited students and staff to submit ideas for all kinds of activities, such as a symposium, cultural or social activities, PR materials or a web campaign, for which they could receive financial support from the Faculty.