As a queer, person of color, and first-generation college graduate, I feel a sense of urgency and obligation to help increase diversity in computing and beyond. I have experience navigating the barriers in academia and industry that exist for minorities, which include the lack of resources, representation, and support structures. I have been fortunate enough to build networks and accrue experiences through communities where there were others like me. Given my teaching philosophy, experience as a student and professor, and as a professional in industry, I believe that I have gained perspectives on approaches to recruiting, engaging, and retaining students and faculty.
Research and practice have shown that diversity improves ideation, thus improving the software we produce and its impact on society. There is a widespread push to increase diversity and improve inclusion in the software industry. This is a critical barrier that we must overcome to reduce the inherent systemic biases that have been built into our algorithms and software designs. As educators, it is our responsibility to recruit, engage, and retain diverse students and faculty in computing. It is also imperative for us to work together to create an environment where faculty of underrepresented backgrounds are also able to thrive and make the greatest impact on students.
A diverse and inclusive environment is of the utmost importance for historically marginalized people to succeed. I have found that the first step to building a diverse and inclusive environment is to actively tap into the communities that I am a part of, including, but not limited to the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers and the Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists. These organizations are designed to build and support communities of minorities in technology. If campus chapters do not exist, I have the necessary experience and desire to help form, sponsor, and maintain such groups. This is not only beneficial for the recruitment of diverse students and faculty, but also for engagement and retention.
Before a community can be created, it’s imperative to ensure representation of diverse individuals. Recruiting diverse students and faculty is important, however, an even bigger challenge is engaging and retaining them once they are present. I incorporate practical and culturally relevant examples that give students a diverse, realistic, and diverse view of computer science. My assignments utilize examples that highlight how bias can impact software. I also highlight the works and contributions of underrepresented individuals in the field.
In closing, I believe that diversity should be a verb and not a noun. This requires educators like us to be active in establishing, supporting, and connecting students and faculty to communities on and off campus. I am proud to participate in these efforts that lead to recruiting, engaging, and retaining diverse students and faculty.
Copyright © 2022 Lucas P. Cordova, Ph.D. - The Pragmatic Professor.