A Warrior for Equal Rights – USC Viterbi

Rob Parke (Photo/Courtesy of Rob Parke)

Rob Parke (Picture/Courtesy of Rob Parke)

For Rob Parke, B.S. CECS ’04, M.S. EE ’06 , childhood was often a struggle.

The associate professor of facts technology exercise at the USC Viterbi Faculty of Engineering was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, or “brittle bones.” The distressing problem, a collagen defect, weakens bones and brings about acute discomfort.

For Parke, now 40, that has led to above 100 fractures and 25 surgical procedures to date, together with owning to use a wheelchair for mobility.

Developing up, Parke spent a good deal of time in hospitals or at property recovering from functions. Normally isolated and on your own, he found solace in pcs. “Technology was for me type of an equalizer,” he claimed. “It was one thing I could do, a way of discovering and checking out when I could not genuinely go for a extensive time.”

That enjoy of technology has only developed. So has Parke’s empathy for and help of men and women with disabilities as properly as for other underrepresented and frequently marginalized teams. In new a long time, Parke has discovered a way to fuse his affinity for engineering with his motivation to inclusion: he has become a potent advocate for generating the discipline of computing welcoming and obtainable to all.

Final November, he obtained the prestigious 2021 Obtain Computing Capability Building Award. Parke co-gained the accolade for his “work advancing the inclusion of disability and accessibility in the subject of computing by way of leadership in the Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Convention.”

“I’m quite very pleased, psyched and honored,” reported Parke, who served as normal chair of the 2021 Tapia Meeting. He shared the award with method chair Patricia Ordóñez of the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras.

Extra Jeffrey Miller, director of the USC Viterbi Info Know-how Method, or ITP, where Parke teaches: “Rob’s attempts for improving upon inclusion in the industry of computing is commendable. In just ITP, we have benefited from Rob’s know-how and assist of inclusion, and it is fantastic to see others accept his contributions.”

The Tapia Convention
Tapia, which just celebrated its 20th year, aims to convey jointly undergraduate and graduate learners, faculty, scientists, and specialists in computing from all backgrounds. Its aim: celebrate the variety that exists in computing foster networking to generate long lasting communities and encourage individuals who are traditionally underrepresented in computing, specifically individuals with disabilities and people who are Black, Latinx/Hispanic, or Native American/Indigenous.

Parke’s affiliation with Tapia began 5 decades in the past. Since then, he has served as a committee deputy chair, plan chair and, most recently, as standard chair, amongst other positions. At the 2021 conference, Parke performed an integral part in planning the overall occasion, which involved a major ethical component as well as subject areas that ran the gamut from cybersecurity to significant-effectiveness computing to leveraging peer mentoring groups to improved assistance underrepresented laptop or computer science college students. Beneath Parke’s management, the remote event attracted 2,500 attendees, an all-time high.

He believes that probably his biggest contribution was assembling a variety of presenters. “I wanted to make confident there was representation in the speakers from all our key constituencies and outside of, primarily so learners could fulfill friends and professionals that appeared like them and know that they belong in computing,” he said.

“As a disabled male, becoming a incredibly seen encounter is also a signal of advocacy in a feeling,” Parke additional.

A social justice warrior
Despite the fact that he landed his Obtain Computing award for his endeavours on behalf of people today with disabilities, Parke considers himself a advocate for variety, fairness and inclusion for all.

Who will combat for marginalized groups, Parke asks, if we really don’t advocate for just one a further?

“If some of us are getting rid of our legal rights or experiencing inequities, then all of us are,” he claimed, noting how in the 1970s LGBTQ activists marched in assistance of and the Black Panthers distributed absolutely free foods to disabled activists who were staging a sit-in in San Francisco, a seminal function in the historical past of the disabled rights’ motion.

At USC, Parke co-chairs the Educational Senate College Committee on Inclusion and Fairness heads ITP’s Racial and Gender Fairness Committee and has led workshops on unconscious bias. Parke usually seeks to teach colleagues and other people about “the results an initiative might have on college students with disabilities,” he explained, “or how we have to have to think about bringing extra people to the desk.”

To Parke, embracing variety is not only the right to do but also tends to make industrial and academic sense.

Study demonstrates, he reported, that diverse teams of learners or employees come up with a lot more inventive and impressive concepts and usually execute greater than their non-numerous counterparts. In small business, groups that contain Blacks, Latinos, Indigenous Individuals, disabled men and women and other individuals are more probably to make items with prevalent attraction.

“If you’re likely to develop products and solutions or companies, you can’t establish them for anyone if the individuals performing on the workforce all glance and imagine the very same, ideal?” Parke requested. “If it’s just a bunch of 23-calendar year-aged white dudes, they are likely to develop items for that demographic, which is great, if that is what your marketplace is. But if you want to access other persons, like men and women with disabilities or unique genders, ethnicities or lived ordeals, then you’re heading to wrestle to do that.”

Additional essential, he explained, striving for inclusivity is an ethical critical.

“There is this sort of breadth and dignity in humanity that if we don’t contain all men and women we are definitely lacking out as a society,” he mentioned.

A major tent instructor
Parke had extended dreamed of starting to be a professor. Right after a stint as an audio engineer for Television set and film, he seized the opportunity in 2009, becoming an adjunct instructor at Orange-primarily based Santiago Canyon College. 3 several years afterwards, he approved a posture with the Data Technological innovation Plan and came house to USC Viterbi.

Parke has still left an indelible effect on the method.

He began the Linked Equipment and Earning slight to educate non-engineering students to produce world-wide-web-enabled, hardware gadgets. He also produced an Android advancement study course for the Cell Application Enhancement minor and serves as faculty co-guide for the introductory Python programming study course.

Offered Parke’s determination to inclusion, he notably enjoys stimulating an fascination in know-how between non-engineers. “It’s just actually pleasurable to connect with a wide range of pupils and expose them to technological innovation, perhaps programming, something they didn’t know they could do.”

Extra than anything, however, Parke needs everybody he comes in get hold of with to feel supported and valued, no make a difference their ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation and bodily or psychological capacity stage.

“I hope people feel that when I experienced interactions with them they felt heard, bundled, and encouraged,” he mentioned. “And in a modest way, I got to be portion of their journey.”

Released on April 7th, 2022

Previous updated on April 7th, 2022