This article is published in the October 2023 issue.

Improving Gender Diversity in Computing: An Update on UR2PhD

By Julia Sepulveda Avalos, Program Associate, CRA-E

In an effort to increase the number of women and other gender-marginalized students (especially those who identify as Black, Latinx, Native, and/or Indigenous) who pursue doctoral studies in computing, the Computing Research Association (CRA) launched the UR2PhD (pronounced “you are to PhD”) program this year. To achieve its goal, the UR2PhD program focuses on increasing the number of high-quality undergraduate research experiences through training and mentorship opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students. 

The first cohort of UR2PhD boasts 134 undergraduate students from 17 unique institutions. Of the undergraduate participants, 91 students currently attend an institutional partner school (Boston University, University of Alberta, University of North Texas, and University of Waterloo), and 84.33 percent identify as women, non-binary, gender-non-conforming, or another gender-marginalized group. Participants also come from a number of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, with 29.85% of participants self-identifying as multiracial and/or as a race that is underrepresented in computing (including but not limited to Black and African American, Latino and Hispanic, Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander, and/or West Asian, Arab or Middle Eastern).

Participating undergraduates are taking a research methods course to build their knowledge of research foundations, while also actively engaging in a research project at their local institution with a faculty mentor and potential graduate student mentor. In the course, the undergraduates are developing and applying practical research skills within the context of their research projects, while also honing their communication skills and building a network of peer support. 

There are also 50 graduate students from 9 distinct institutions engaging in a mentor training program while concurrently mentoring undergraduate program participants on their research projects. As part of this experience, graduate student participants are developing their understanding of mentorship best practices and cultivating their own mentoring philosophies.  

To keep supporting participants throughout their research journey, the UR2PhD team will be launching a series of online bridge workshops. These workshops will target students who have completed the undergraduate research methods course and will feature programming to keep students engaged in research. Programming will highlight different research pathways and graduate school options, while also providing skills development opportunities. A subset of these workshops will provide rising-fourth year students with mentorship for applying to PhD programs in computing. 

CRA strongly believes that the computing field stands to benefit from the diverse perspectives and experiences of all members of the community. We hope that the UR2PhD program encourages more undergraduate students who identify as women or another gender marginalized group to continue to pursue opportunities within computing research. CRA also hopes that graduate student participants will feel equipped to continue to serve as effective research mentors throughout their careers. CRA looks forward to seeing how participants apply their talents and new knowledge in the future.

UR2PhD is managed by CRA’s Education Committee (CRA-E) and the Committee on Widening Participation (CRA-WP). It is led by Program Leaders Christine Alvarado, Kelly Shaw, Lori Pollock, and Monique Ross, with support from Susan Rodger. The program was launched with the support of a $5 million grant from a philanthropic partner with the intent of substantially increasing the enrollment of women and other gender-marginalized communities, especially students who identify as Black, Latinx, Native, and/or Indigenous, within computing doctoral programs. To learn more about UR2PhD, please visit