This article is published in the October 2023 issue.

CRA Welcomes Curtis Cain as New Director of Broadening Participation in Computing Initiatives

By Matt Hazenbush, Director of Communications


A well-known and respected leader in the community, Dr. Cain brings valuable experience and expertise to his new role leading CRA’s Widening Participation committee.


The Computing Research Association (CRA) is pleased to announce the naming of Curtis Cain, PhD, to the position of Director of Broadening Participation in Computing Initiatives. A long-time leader and researcher in broadening participation in computing (BPC), Dr. Cain comes to CRA from Howard University, where he’s taught and conducted research since 2016 with a focus on computer science education and analysis of the barriers to inclusion for underrepresented peoples in computing and engineering. He will be teaching his typical course load this semester, and is beginning his role at CRA on a part-time basis until transitioning to full-time January 1. 

In his new role, Dr. Cain will lead the internal staff of the CRA-Widening Participation committee (CRA-WP), which is dedicated to enhancing the success and involvement of women, underrepresented minorities, and individuals with disabilities in computing research and education across all levels.

“In addition to his excellent qualifications, Curtis will bring tremendous passion and infectious energy to his work for CRA,” said Tracy Camp, Executive Director and CEO of CRA. “I can’t wait to see the new heights he’ll take our BPC efforts in the future.” 


BPC Experience and Expertise 

A highly experienced leader in student-facing programs and a passionate advocate for diversity in computing, Dr. Cain’s professional history demonstrates his exceptional program management, communication, and partnership cultivation skills. Dr. Cain’s prolific research on BPC integrates people, technology, information, policy, and culture to address societal issues leverages his expertise in social inclusion, gender and racial theories, and interpretive epistemology. He has published more than two dozen peer-reviewed conference papers, book chapters, and journal articles focused on understanding the experiences of underrepresented groups in computing. His work also explores mechanisms for diversifying the computing workforce and increasing the number of students pursuing degrees in the field.

His track record of success includes securing more than $13 million in grants and contracts in less than  seven years at Howard and hiring personnel to administer projects and grants; partnering with local schools to provide mentorship opportunities and hosting workshops and seminars on DEI in technology to build relationships between Google and local organizations, schools, and community groups; and co-Founding BLKGENIUS, a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting children and scholars with mentors and role models in technical fields to develop the necessary skill sets for career preparation and advancement.

“I’m so excited to be taking this next step in my career with CRA,” said Dr. Cain. “CRA is an organization I’ve long admired, and it feels great to be joining forces with a team that’s so deeply committed to culture development, inclusivity, and innovative initiative building.” 

Dr. Cain earned a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Engineering from Johnson C. Smith University and a Master of Science in Computer Science & Software Engineering from Auburn University. He earned his PhD in Information Sciences and Technology from Pennsylvania State University, completing his dissertation on the underrepresentation of Black males in Information Technology. 


Stewardship of CRA-WP

Dr. Cain assumes his new position as Erik Russell transitions to being the full-time Director of Educational Initiatives after a very successful 10 year tenure managing CRA-WP, in addition to other responsibilities. 

“CRA-WP is a powerhouse in the computing research community, much of which is thanks to Erik’s efforts on our behalf,” said Camp, CRA Executive Director and CEO. “Erik has been a wonderful collaborator and has created an environment where CRA-WP and the staff have thrived. I’m so glad Curtis will have Erik as a resource as he joins us.” 

As Director of Broadening Participation in Computing Initiatives, Dr. Cain will lead the next chapter of CRA-WP’s impact and success, developing and executing initiatives that benefit the computing community by increasing participation in computing research, specifically for communities underrepresented in the technology sector. 

“Curtis brings a fantastic level of expertise to the Director of BPC Initiatives role,” said Susan Rodger, a Professor of the Practice in the Department of Computer Science at Duke University and CRA-WP co-chair. “I’m excited for the whole WP team, who will benefit from the mentorship and compassion he’s demonstrated in his past positions.”

Major responsibilities of the role include oversight of all aspects of CRA-WP programs, including tracking and providing updates to stakeholders, and program planning and implementation, including writing proposals and reports and budget management. In addition, the Director is responsible for cultivating and maintaining partnerships among external and internal constituencies, including federal agencies and foundational organizations, academic partners, and external partner organizations engaged in synergistic activities. 

“Curtis joins CRA-WP at such an exciting time,” said Amanda Stent, the inaugural director of the Davis Institute for AI at Colby College, a CRA Board Member, and CRA-WP co-chair. “Erik has built a great foundation on which Curtis and the team can continue to deepen and expand CRA-WP’s impact in the community.”