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New leadership at BDPA prepares for annual conference

Speakers, networking, continuing ed, job opportunities, scholarships and technology fill this year’s event in Indianapolis

The National Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA, www.bdpa.org) will hold its thirty-sixth Annual Technology Conference from August 4 to 9 at the JW Marriott hotel in Indianapolis, IN. The theme of this year’s conference, “race to innovate,” reflects BDPA’s ambitious national strategy and vision.

New BDPA president shares his vision
This year also sees a new national president for the BDPA, Craig Brown, PhD. Brown was elected to his presidential post in October.

“BDPA needs to become a technologically innovative organization. We want to help our professional and student members get a better handle on future directions in technology and recognize how to stay relevant within their fields,” he says.

Brown also wants to make the organization more marketable and visible to its membership. “Next year will be the fortieth anniversary of the founding of BDPA. That’s a huge milestone. I want the BDPA to be as relevant forty years from now as it is today. We need to get more of our success stories out to the public and be known for more than our High School Computer Competition,” he says.

Indianapolis, a racing city
Because of the history associated with the Indianapolis 500, Brown feels this year’s theme, “race to innovate,” is particularly apt. The area also boasts several prestigious universities: Purdue University (West Lafayette), University of Indianapolis (Indianapolis), Butler University (Indianapolis), and the University of Notre Dame (South Bend), providing a ready source of students involved in technical fields who will likely be interested in attending the conference.

High school students can participate in the Youth Technology Camp, which exposes youth from schools around the country, including local middle and high schools, to three days of workshops, presentations and site visits to local tech-based member companies.

The High School Computer Competition has been a yearly feature of BDPA conferences since 1986, and is now one of the organization’s signature programs. Teams are formed and coached by BDPA chapters. The top teams from each region come together at the national conference, where they compete with each other to complete written and oral exams and develop an application to specs over twenty-four hours. The winning teams receive scholarship money and prizes donated by corporate sponsors.

College and advanced high school students can participate in the IT Showcase. They prepare posters and give oral presentations on a research topic, and a panel of judges chooses the best projects for awards.

Sponsors, supporters and exhibitors
The Indianapolis BDPA chapter is the host for this year’s conference. Angela Bryant, group administrator, and Matthew B. Harvey, chapter president, are both involved in helping to orchestrate the meeting. Both are also employees of Eli Lilly, which is headquartered in the city and one of BDPA’s major corporate sponsors.

Other platinum-level sponsors include HP and Johnson & Johnson. Gold-level sponsors of this year’s conference are State Farm; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas; and Miller Coors. At the silver level, sponsors include Cisco, GM, JP Morgan Chase, McDonalds, Oracle, Trinity Health, the U.S. Navy, and WellPoint. Many other companies are bronze-level contributors and career fair exhibitors.

What not to miss
According to Brown, the BDPA conference offers attendees an outstanding opportunity to hear content relevant to their technical fields, take advantage of workshops and continuing education certification programs, and network with like-minded professionals.

For students, the conference offers networking opportunities with corporate sponsors and interviewing opportunities at the career fair for both fulltime and internship positions.

Be sure to get there for kickoff, Brown advises. “The opening ceremony is usually very exciting. It’s kind of a pep rally.” He also touts the daily luncheons with speakers, a golf tournament on Saturday and a fun run/walk. The event wraps up with a formal gala and awards ceremony.

As in past years, the Information Technology Senior Management Forum (ITSMF) will hold its third-quarter symposium in parallel with the BDPA conference. ITSMF is an organization of CIOs and other senior-level executives in the technology industry.

A technical leader for BDPA
Brown is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA) with bachelors degrees in computer science and mechanical engineering (1991), a 1993 MBA, and a 1995 PhD in management information systems, He has had a twenty-five-year career in information technology. He joined BDPA in 1996, and was a regular conference presenter for the organization between 2002 and 2009. He was vice president of the national organization for two years before taking over as president in January.

He is also chief executive officer, chief information officer and senior partner at STEM Resource Partners, (Houston, TX), an IT staffing and solutions provider with sixty-five consultants nationwide and fifteen internationally. Before STEM Resource Partners, he was a database architect and executive for two different software companies.

Listening and responding
Brown explains that heading up an organization like the BDPA involves understanding the needs of stakeholders: members, chapter leaders, sponsors, and national leadership. Through the BDPA, he needs to provide those stakeholders with relevant programs and content. A successful annual conference is one of its most important channels.

“Feedback from the membership is used to build workshops and evaluate the need for certification programs. We then try to find experts to cover the topics. We use the top trends in technology and invite speakers based on that. Content is provided in the form of workshops, panel discussions, seminars and keynote speakers.”

Dozens of scholarships
Wayne Hicks, executive director of the BDPA Education and Technology Foundation, says, “This year we’re excited to give out dozens of college scholarships for STEM student members of our forty-six active chapters. These are mostly high school students. Many will be competing at the conference, and most are members of computer camps held on Saturdays where BDPA volunteers help provide STEM training.”

BDPA has worked with corporations like Eli Lilly, Oracle, Johnson & Johnson, and Monsanto to create these scholarships. Hicks says, “There will be close to forty scholarships averaging $2,500 each.”

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