The Early Research Scholars Program (ERSP), founded by Christine Alvarado in the Computer Science Department at UC San Diego (UCSD), provides authentic research experiences to early undergraduates over one academic year. Since its inception in 2014, the program has transformed the landscape of undergraduate research at UC San Diego by significantly broadening access to research among early students, with over 350 student participants, 60% of whom identify as women or non-binary, and 22% as Black, Latinx, or Native American students. Further, ERSP has retained most participants (97% since the program matured).
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.
This article presents the progress made in Broadening Participation in Computing and calls upon the entire computing community to take on the important goal of addressing underrepresentation in computing disciplines.
The Distributed REsearch Apprenticeships for Master’s (DREAM) is a pilot NSF program being offered by a nationwide consortium of colleges and universities that have created “bridge to MS in CS” programs for students with non-CS bachelor’s degrees. Schools in the MSCS Pathways to Computing Consortium provide a new pathway for people who studied something other than CS as undergraduates to enter the tech field. The strong emphasis of this effort is to provide a new pathway into computing for individuals from populations historically minoritized in tech (women, LGBQTIA, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American/Hawaiian/Alaskan/Asian Pacific Islander students, and students with disabilities). Consortium members sign a membership agreement that, among other things, confirms their commitment to increasing the diversity of their graduate programs. Students in these Consortium pathways come from a wide array of undergraduate backgrounds that span the STEM disciplines, humanities, social sciences, business, and the arts.
Imagine you walk into Japanese 101 and on the first day the professor asks, “Has anyone taken Japanese before?” and everyone raises their hand but you and a handful of other students. Imagine then that your classmates not only raise their hands but respond to the professor in Japanese! At age 18, I would have been intimidated and likely would have dropped the class. This is how many of our students feel in the first course for computing majors – overwhelmed by the sense that they are already behind when in theory they have only just begun.
The trouble is that prior experience in CS is not uniformly distributed across all genders, races and ethnicities, and further CS is only offered in approximately half of U.S. high schools (with more of those high schools in regions of economic privilege). Thus, the individuals experiencing the first course required for a computing major (CS1) in this way are more likely to be from less privileged geographies and from genders and races/ethnicities historically marginalized in tech.
It is imperative that computing departments address the distribution of prior experience in coding, but how they respond will depend on the context of the department and the university. In this article, we outline five of the more popular approaches, illustrating the contexts in which they work best, and possible pitfalls.
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.
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.