This article is published in the May 2006 issue.

CRA-W and CDC Form an Alliance for NSF’s New Program to Broaden Participation in Computing

Expanding the Pipeline

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has always been a major source of support for activities aimed at diversifying science and engineering fields. So when NSF launched a visionary new program aimed specifically at increasing the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in computing, CRA’s Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W) partnered with the Coalition to Diversify Computing (CDC) to submit a proposal. We saw this as a wonderful opportunity to improve some of our current programs and to create innovative new projects to encourage women and underrepresented minorities to participate in computing research. Our alliance is designed to share each other’s programs and offer them to a wider range of people from underrepresented groups. We are anticipating that this NSF grant will be funded for $1.5M over three years. The award will allow us to extend some of our existing programs and offer new ones as well.

Extended Mentoring Program

One of our goals for improving the undergraduate research experiences of the Distributed Mentoring Program (DMP) and the Collaborative Research Experiences for Undergrads (CREU) is to support longer-term mentoring relationships. We want to encourage mentors and mentees who wish to continue their relationship beyond the original DMP or CREU project with support for visits and follow-up activities, possibly involving the student’s advisor back home. This will allow the research project to go farther and build stronger and more successful application packages for graduate school admission and fellowship opportunities. This new option is called the Extended Mentoring Program (EMP).

Discipline-Specific Mentoring Tracks

We are also introducing a new concept called Discipline-Specific Mentoring Tracks (DSMTs) to enable researchers within a particular computing subfield to develop collaborations and mentoring relationships. We intend for these DSMTs to include participants ranging from advanced undergraduates through graduate students and all faculty ranks. The issues of how to focus a job search, how to embark on pre-tenure research, which funding agencies to approach, and how to interpret or write paper reviews all have subtly different answers and tradeoffs depending on the sub-area of computer science and engineering being pursued. To address these needs, we are planning Research Workshops or Summer Schools that will provide an intense immersion in a research area, its culture, and interactions with established researchers in the field. Throughout the events, there will be a mix of technical sessions and discussions of career development topics. The climate will be distinctly different from traditional technical workshops because of the significant diversity that will exist among the attendees and the invited speakers and panelists. Because of their research focus, DSMTs also foster the formation of research collaborations and career mentoring networks among participants. The first Summer School is being planned in Computer Architecture, and is slated to be held at Princeton University on July 19-21. Please see for details and registration information.

Tri-Mentoring Programs

Another new initiative called ‘tri-mentoring’ is aimed at improving the quality of the graduate school experience and the research outcomes for students from underrepresented groups by involving a third person in a mentoring triangle. In some cases, the third person may be an industry researcher; in others, the tri-mentoring may involve two academics from different universities or different fields of an interdisciplinary research topic. Including two mentors per student offers many potential benefits for both students and mentors. The tri-mentoring approach may increase collaboration between the mentors, and make persistent links between a student’s dissertation research and the research activities pursued during a summer industrial internship. In some cases, it may also be a helpful step in alleviating tensions or improving communication between a student and her primary dissertation advisor. Tri-mentoring can also be of great value to the two mentors involved by fostering technical collaborations, and giving them a new voice to contribute to their own learning. These relationships may grow out of other programs such as DSMT or CDC programs such as Distributed Rap Sessions. We will facilitate tri-mentoring with travel funding and assistance in identifying potential members for a triangle.

Traveling Lecture Series 

Finally, we want to explicitly reach talented undergraduates who are not being exposed to research at their home institutions. This outreach will continue to be a priority for the DMP. In addition, a Traveling Lecture Series is being redesigned around the lessons learned in a previous CRA-W lecture series to focus on the needs of undergraduates at schools where information about graduate school is more difficult to obtain and research role models are rare. The Traveling Lecture series will complement CDC’s Traveling Academic Forum. The long-term goal of the revamped Traveling Academic forum is to create a community of underrepresented minority faculty to provide support and guidance for current and future faculty from underrepresented groups. Each workshop provides information that permits better understanding and navigation of the academic ladder, and offers encouragement to undergraduate students to pursue graduate studies and possible academic careers. The forum will conduct workshops at Minority-Serving institutions and conferences sponsored by organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers, Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, and Black Data Processing Association.

For More information  

As the different new programs move from “anticipated” to reality, the best sources of information on status and deadlines will be the CRA webpage, the CRA-W webpage ( and the CDC webpage ( We look forward to the launch of these programs, and hope that they will be helpful to a range of colleagues from undergraduates to senior faculty!

Carla Schlatter Ellis is a professor in the Computer Science Department at Duke University. She is the former co-chair of CRA-W and currently serves as fundraising co-chair for the organization. She serves on the Board of CRA. She is Editor-in-Chief of the ACM Transactions on Computer Systems. She was formerly Chair of SIGOPS.

Margaret Martonosi is a professor in the Electrical Engineering Department at Princeton University, where she also serves as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for the School of Engineering and Applied Science. She serves as a member of CRA-W, and is currently editor for the CRA newsletter’s Pipelines column.

Jeffrey Forbes is an assistant professor of the practice in the Computer Science Department at Duke University. He serves as a member of the Coalition to Diversify Computing.

CRA-W and CDC Form an Alliance for NSF’s New Program to Broaden Participation in Computing