Nisha McNealis | My First Year in Outreach

It’s hard to believe that less than a year ago, I was sitting in the ACM Clubhouse with nine strangers and no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew I liked AI and I liked teaching, so ACM AI Outreach seemed like a good fit. But, as cheesy as it may sound, the committee I joined went wayyyy beyond AI and teaching.

Through designing and redesigning slide decks, struggling over research papers, recording podcast episodes, writing blog posts, brainstorming ideas for events, making cringeworthy TikToks, and going to countless meetings in The Study, I got to know each of the insanely talented, incredibly driven people who share my passion to make the field of AI as accessible as possible. The more I’ve worked with our committee, the more clear it is that my teammates are some of the kindest and most welcoming people I’ve ever met. AI can be unbelievably intimidating, but Arjun, Sharvani, and my fellow interns officers give me the confidence to keep learning.

We’ve packed so many projects into a year that it’s hard to pick a favorite, but if I had to choose, I’m probably most proud of our redesigned curriculum. The first goal of Outreach was to teach high schoolers the fundamentals of AI, and next year we’ll be more than ready to do that with basketball, Animal Crossing, and plenty of memes.

Speaking of next year, ACM AI has some big plans in the works. On Outreach, I’m so excited to expand, improve, and diversify our content. We have new and improved slides and an incredible first season of our podcast, You Belong in AI. Over the summer we’ve been converting our trickiest lessons to online learning modules with the help of TeachLA (huge shoutout to Matt and Leo for teaching us their web dev secrets).

We’ve also been prepping for some phenomenal upcoming events with our fearless leader Maya. Although it’s been tough to shift our plans from in-person to virtual, I’m excited to explore the benefits of having an online format. We’ll be able to bring speakers from all over the world to the UCLA community, and literally anyone who wants to learn about AI will have access to recordings of our events.

On Outreach + Events, we believe in giving everyone the tools to engage in discussions about AI ethics, apply new technologies to any field they want to impact, and better adapt to a virtual world. I can’t wait to keep learning, teaching, and working toward this mission next year.

Written on July 18, 2020 by Nisha McNealis