Nebraska joins initiative to increase diversity in computer science

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Nebraska joins initiative to increase diversity in computer science

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The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s undergraduate computer science program is one of 15 across the United States that have joined a nationwide initiative to recruit more women and underrepresented minorities to the computer science field.

The initiative is led by the Anita Borg Institute, based in Palo Alto, Calif., and Harvey Mudd College, in Claremont, Calif.

The Building Recruiting and Inclusion for Diversity, or BRAID, initiative was announced Sept. 24 by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her address at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting.

Each participating computer science program is to receive $30,000 annually for the next three years to pursue efforts to attract more women and underrepresented minorities to the field. Facebook, Google, Intel and Microsoft have committed to funding the initiative.

Presently, 11 percent of the university’s computer science and computer engineering majors are women and fewer than 5 percent of undergraduates are minorities.

Matthew Dwyer, Lovell professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, said the university launched efforts to increase the inclusiveness and diversity in their programs in June. Some highlights of Nebraska’s plans are:

  • Revising introductory computing classes to incorporate real-world problems into assignments, emphasize project and group-based learning, foster collaboration among students and emphasize the human side of computer-based problem solving;

  • Supporting students to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Phoenix in October to expand their personal and professional networks;

  • Developing a freshman summer research program to expose students to advances in the frontiers of computing applications and to help develop their skills for follow on research and industry internships;

  • Strengthening ties with K-12 computer science teachers, computer science and engineering professionals and community organizations like the Girl Scouts and the recently formed Lincoln Coding Women group; and

  • Building a strong internal community in CSE to both support students from diverse backgrounds and to connect students to the broader community through service projects.

The university’s small enrollment of women and minorities “presents a challenge in making new students from these groups feel as if they belong in computer science or computer engineering,” Dwyer acknowledged. “We are committed to preparing a diverse student population for exciting careers in computing. These efforts will benefit all of our students, our degree programs, and industry here in Nebraska.” he said.

The Anita Borg Institute was founded in 1997 Named in honor of its founder, a pioneering female computer scientist. It aims to connect, inspire and guide women in computing around the world. Harvey Mudd College is a liberal arts college specializing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is a member of the Claremont Colleges Consortium.

“The BRAID initiative is the most exciting project I’ve been involved with to expand diversity in computer science,” Klawe said in a statement announcing the initiative. “I’m thrilled by how enthusiastic department chairs have been about taking on this initiative to change their culture in a way that will make it more inclusive to underrepresented groups.”

Other participating computer science programs are Arizona State University; Missouri University of Science and Technology; New Jersey Institute of Technology; the University of California-Irvine; the University of Illinois-Chicago; the University of Maryland-Baltimore County; the University of Maryland-College Park; the University of North Texas; the University of Rochester; the University of South Carolina; the University of Texas-El Paso; the University of Vermont; the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; and Villanova University.

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