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Expanding the Pipeline: Recruiting and Retaining Computing Students through Research Experiences for Undergraduates

By Patty Lopez & Soha Hassoun

As efforts to broaden computing have become more diverse, inclusive, and just, despite increasing enrollments in computer science, the percentages of historically excluded students have not changed much and many institutions are struggling to retain them. Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) are designed to introduce undergraduate students to research and present active training opportunities that may lead to students pursuing advanced academic degrees.  Students are exposed early in their academic careers to research as problem solving, and therefore can develop critical thinking skills independently of coding skills. REUs provide an alternative source of funding while engaging with faculty and mentors who can nurture their interests and provide encouragement to persist in their degree program, often prior to declaring a major. In addition to providing early research engagement opportunities for first year and second year students with insufficient experience to compete for cooperative and summer internships, applying to and participating in REUs provide experience navigating application requirements (including writing a personal statement and gaining strong letters of recommendation, which helps them get to know faculty and vice-versa), collaborating on a project, and building a set of skills that would make them an attractive graduate school applicants. REUs are especially beneficial for first-generation, community college, and non-traditional students who may have limited exposure and access to graduate school, the application process, and hands-on opportunities to explore the field more deeply.

Sandhya Dwarkadas Named Chair of University of Virginia Computer Science Department

CRA-WP Co-Chair and CRA Board Member Sandhya Dwarkadas has been named Chair of the University of Virginia (UVA) Department of Computer Science. She comes to UVA from the University of Rochester where she is Interim Associate Vice President for Research and the Albert Arendt Hopeman Professor of Engineering. She will assume the role on July 1, 2022.

From the UVA announcement:

“Sandhya is a world-class researcher with excellent leadership skills and experiences,” said UVA Engineering Dean Jennifer L. West. “She has a demonstrated record of fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and supporting diversity, equity and inclusion, with an emphasis on increasing the participation of women and students from other backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in computer science. We are thrilled she will join our team.”

CRA-WP Co-chair Amanda Stent Named a Fellow of the Association for Computational Linguistics

CRA-WP Co-chair Amanda Stent has been named a fellow of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) for “significant contributions to computational models of multimodal and spoken dialogue, natural language generation and summarization.” Stent is the inaugural director of the Colby College Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

From ACL:

The Fellows program recognizes ACL members whose contributions to the field have been most extraordinary in terms of scientific and technical excellence, service to the association and the community and/or educational or outreach activities with broader impact.


Congratulations to Maria Gini – 2022 ACM/SIGAI Autonomous Agents Research Award Winner

CRA-WP Board Member Maria Gini was recently named the recipient of the 2022 ACM/SIGAI Autonomous Agents Research Award, one of the major SIGAI awards. Maria Gini is Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota. She also currently serves as a co-director for the Grad Cohort Workshop for Women and the CSGrad4US Mentoring Program.

Former CRA-W Co-chair Tracy Camp Named Computing Research Association Executive Director

Nationally Known Computer Scientist and Diversity Advocate to Lead CRA’s Next Chapter
The Computing Research Association recently announced Dr. Tracy Camp will become the organization’s fourth Executive Director in its 50 year history. Camp is the former Department Head of Computer Science at Colorado School of Mines. She brings to the role strong experience as a leader in the computing research community at the national level, a history spearheading diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in computing, and a detailed vision for leading the organization into the future.

Camp has previous experience with CRA having served for many years in various volunteer capacities. She is a current board member of the CRA Committee on Widening Participation in Computing Research, where she served as co-chair from 2011 to 2014. Camp was also an influential member of the CRA Board of Directors from 2012 to 2016. She led the committee that produced the 2017 report Generation CS: CS Undergraduate Enrollments Surge Since 2006.

Camp will be the first woman to serve as Executive Director at CRA. She will assume the role on July 1, 2022.