Efforts to increase participation from minoritized communities has been going on in earnest for over a decade. Unfortunately, we have yet to expand the group of faculty and staff engaged in these activities and have only made a marginal difference in who is studying computing. This article discusses BPC Plans as an attempt to supplement and scale-up the computing community’s efforts to address the issue of lack of diversity in computing.
Computing Research News
“Expanding the Pipeline” is a regular column in Computing Research News. The column serves both as a vehicle for describing projects and issues related to women and underrepresented groups in computing. The column is guest-authored by individuals who share their insight and experiences from their active participation in programs designed to involve women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in education and research. Patty Lopez is the column editor.
The SIGCSE 2022 Technical Symposium was a hybrid event with both virtual and in-person participation in Providence, Rhode Island March 2-5. Across the three conference tracks of Computing Education Research, Experience Reports and Tools, and Position and Curricula Initiatives, there were 144 accepted papers. Additionally, there were 15 panels, 9 special sessions, 24 workshops, 15 papers as part of the ACM Student Research Competition, 34 birds of a feather sessions, 15 demos, 17 lightning talks, 6 nifty assignments, 99 posters, and 29 exhibitors. The Pathable platform was used to provide virtual participants access to the conference sessions.
In an era of rapidly evolving technology and increasing interconnectedness, full participation in society depends on the successful use of technology. Thus, to ensure equity and participation for people with disabilities, technology must be accessible—we must create and adapt interactive systems to improve access to technology and to the world at large. The University of Washington Center for Research and Education on Accessible Technology and Experiences (CREATE) is dedicated to propelling accessible technology research and education from incremental improvements to paradigm-shifting breakthroughs that enable greater inclusion and participation for people of all abilities. This article briefly introduces CREATE’s mission and then highlights some of its recent research into the impact of the pandemic on students and best practices for hybrid meetings.
In 2011, my team of six instructors led a yearlong CS course for 120 Black/Latinx middle-school students in Washington, DC. After first-day introductions, we asked them to name a computer scientist. Despite six Black men/women in front of them, we heard only three names: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg. It was then that I realized if they didn’t see us as computer scientists, then how would they ever be able to see themselves as one? We knew we had work to do.
We spent the entire year dismantling the narrative that CS was restricted to White and Asian men and reinforcing how not only were they computer scientists, but also change agents. Students learned much more than what CS was, but also whom it should represent and why these identities mattered.
We were fortunate to have a team that didn’t fit the “traditional” narrative leading that effort. However, this won’t always be the case. As we continue to make strides in CS education, the following strategies can help to ensure that the who and why are prioritized, regardless of the student or instructor.
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.
We share some key insights that have been gleaned from evaluation reports of mentors and participants in the CRA Committee on Widening Participation in Computing Research (CRA-WP)’s Collaborative Research Experiences for Undergraduates (CREU) and Distributed Research Experiences for Undergraduates (DREU) programs and our own firsthand experiences working with and mentoring undergraduate students.
The Data Buddies Project has been running strong since 2010. This article dives into some of the history of the Data Buddies Project and CERP while also highlighting the project over the years. The article concludes with a look into how the project operates today.
On April 23-24, CRA-WP was thrilled to hold the 2021Grad Cohort Workshop for Women after canceling the previous year’s event because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Grad Cohort for Women 2021 was quite different than previous Grad Cohorts as it was held virtually using the Socio event platform. The workshop still consisted of advice panels by professors and research scientists, research discussion sessions, a keynote talk, one-on-one mentoring sessions, an exhibit hall, and even food breaks complete with a customized snack box delivered in advance. Attendance was strong with 375 students, 35 speakers and mentors, 36 sponsors and 14 staff present.
Five years ago, we wrote in this column about the research our team was initiating on the BRAID (Building Recruiting and Inclusion for Diversity) initiative, a coordinated effort among 15 universities to increase representation among women and Students of Color in their undergraduate computing programs. Over these past five years, the BRAID institutions have indeed made significant strides towards greater diversity. Collectively, while BRAID departments experienced an 87% increase in overall undergraduate computing enrollments, such increases were even larger among women (139%), BLI (Black, Latinx, and Indigenous) students (106%), and BLI women (127%). While there is much more work to be done in order to achieve gender and racial/ethnic parity in computing representation (not to mention fostering more inclusive environments), these figures certainly reflect progress. Further, such progress was not experienced by BRAID institutions alone, as data from the nationwide CRA Taulbee Survey during this same time period also show significant gains in representation among women and underrepresented Students of Color.
Education presents a complex and confusing landscape. The traditional view of a CS education pipeline flowing from elementary through secondary, postsecondary, and graduate education is an oversimplification – one that may hinder our efforts to diversify computing. This simplification encourages a focus on educational efforts based on retention across stages and the traditional transitions between them, ignoring the fact that successful students may enter or re-enter CS education through a variety of nonstandard onramps.
For the past fifteen years, I have led the NSF-funded broadening participation alliance AccessComputing that has the goal of increasing the participation and success of people with disabilities in computing fields. This has given me and my team the ability to help create positive change and to observe what others have done to do the same. No doubt, there are still significant barriers for some students with disabilities to enter our field, and as technology changes new barriers often arise.
To identify and broadly engage the next generation of computer science researchers, the Computing Alliance of Hispanic Serving Institutions (CAHSI), an NSF INCLUDES Alliance, piloted a national virtual Research Experience for Undergraduates (vREU) during the summer of 2020. Funded by an NSF RAPID grant, the pilot provided undergraduate research experiences for 50 students and 20 faculty drawn from 20 colleges and universities widely distributed throughout the continental U.S. and Puerto Rico. The program used the Affinity Research Group (ARG) model to guide faculty mentors throughout the experience. ARG is a CAHSI signature practice with a focus on deliberate, structured faculty and student research skills development. At weekly meetings, Drs. Morreale, Villa, and Gates discussed and provided resources for specific skills that were appropriate at a specific point in time of a student’s research experience. Faculty mentors put skills development into immediate practice throughout their summer research program.