RESPECT for Diversity (in Computing)

Last week I had the honor and pleasure of attending the 10th annual STARS Celebration collocated with the first annual RESPECT Celebration in Charlotte, NC. STARS Computing Corps is a community of practice for student-led regional engagement as a means to broaden participation in computing.  RESPECT is the acronym for Research on Equity and Sustained Participation in Engineering, Computing, and Technology.

The celebrations highlighted the widespread and diverse efforts to broaden participation in computing (BPC). NSF was a proud sponsor of the celebrations along with Google, IT-ology, Duke Energy, Bank of America, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of South Carolina, UNC-Charlotte, and others. In addition to the many rising “stars” in computing education from the colleges and universities as well as high schools, the attendees included many well-known computer science educators. The sessions for the RESPECT attendees included engaging presentations of research on diversity in computing, a panel discussion on why we can and should keep diversity in focus during the college/university surge in CS enrollment, and lightning talks. Friday evening’s highlight was a STARS and RESPECT reception at Discovery Place—featuring food and fun with interactive science exhibits in addition to the RESPECT poster session.

The STARS attendees had ample choices among sessions addressing mentoring, professional preparation for students, outreach, and sessions of interest to faculty members. The STARS participants also participated in a Career Fair sponsored by IT-ology and a parallel STARS poster competition. The Saturday sessions for STARS participants focused on topics in mentoring, professional, outreach, grad school, sustainability and a track for faculty as well as a track for high school students and teachers. Several CSTA members were in attendance on Saturday and brought their students with them to participate.

The opening keynote address was delivered by Richard Ladner, Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, who presented a fascinating discussion about accessibility in computing education (you may have met Richard at the CSTA Annual Conference in Dallas). Richard is the PI for the NSF-funded AccessComputing Alliance dedicated to increasing participation of students with disabilities in computing fields. He is also a PI for the NSF-funded AccessCS10K, which has a goal of preparing K-12 teachers to be more inclusive in their computing courses, particularly ECS and CSP, of students with disabilities.

The Friday lunch featured a BPC Fireside Chat presented by representatives from Special Technical Community on Broadening Participation (STCBP), Computing Research Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W), CDC, the Computing Alliance for Hispanic-Serving Institutions (CAHSI), the Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance, AccessComputing, Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in Information Technology (CMD-IT), STARS, the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), and the Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computing Sciences (IAAMCS). The presenters represented the multitude of organizations devoted to broadening participation in computer science and the collaborative relationship among the organizations. Conference participants were given an overview of each organization and the resources that each organization provides to broaden participation.

The keynote on Saturday was presented by Teresa Dahlberg, Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Syracuse University. Teresa was co-founder of the STARS Computing Corps and presented a brief history of the organization.

This was a great conference for me. In addition to thoroughly enjoyable and interesting presentations, the conference served to bring broadening participation in computing back to the forefront—though it has never been far from it. This is a critical focus for computing for many reasons. Working together, we can accomplish the BPC goal. As you begin another academic year, take some time to reflect on how you are broadening participation of women and underrepresented minorities as well as those with disabilities, in your computing program. If you are a K-12 educator, have you considered partnering with a STARS member at a local university? Have you attended Tapestry Workshops? Have you taken time to visit the websites of the groups mentioned in this blog post to see what resources may be available to you? If you are a college or university educator, have you considered adopting the STARS Leadership Corps model for service learning? Have you joined the STARS Online Community? In short, what are you doing to actively promote broadening participation in your computing program? This post provides you with ample resources to do just that.

Deborah Seehorn, CSTA Board of Directors Past Chair