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A Collective Action Approach to Broadening Participation in Computing


Despite enrollment increases in U.S. undergraduate computing departments, representation of historically excluded groups remains low. This lack of diversity is evident in academic and workplace cultures as well as biased and/or harmful technologies that negatively impact and exclude non-dominant identities. This NSF-funded project aims to increase the entry, retention, and course/degree completion rates of high-school and undergraduate students from groups that are historically marginalized in computing. Our collective impact approach to broadening participation convenes national leaders in K–16 computer science (CS) education to transform high-school and postsecondary CS education.

Core to our strategy is the growing area of identity-inclusive computing (IIC) research, which blends social science with CS to explore how identity impacts and is impacted by computing. IIC takes a holistic view of identity (i.e., at the intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, ability, etc.) and pushes stakeholders to examine the impact of people, policies, and practices at the individual, group, classroom, and department levels.

In this poster, we present the results of two activities that have been implemented as a part of this project. First, we present the development of and audience reception to a project-wide, social media-based science communication initiative that introduces identity-inclusive computing topics to students, staff, educators, and administrators. This initiative utilizes a combination of short (< 3 minutes) videos and infographics to introduce concepts like the importance of name pronunciation and access to computing, white supremacy, and ableism in easily accessible ways. The videos have been posted on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram project accounts since February 2022. Using analytics such as likes, shares, and other interactions, we learned that the audience found the material engaging and used it in both professional development and classroom settings.

The second featured project presents a novel, two-year, virtual, cohort-based program that helps administrators, faculty, and staff identify and address systemic barriers impacting students in computing classes and departments. The program aims to: (1) increase participant knowledge of identity-related topics that are rooted in social science, (2) increase participant self-efficacy leading initiatives based on an understanding of these topics, and (3) increase the number of computing undergraduates completing identity-inclusive courses, modules, and other activities. The program infuses more social sciences (uncommon in computing curricula) into every four-year sequence, while also addressing participation disparities, toxic cultures, and dangerous designs that are pervasive in current technology. Our results indicate that participants develop a greater understanding of identity as well as increased comfort discussing identity-related topics and leading identity-inclusive activities. They were also able to reflect more on their own identities while building community with other cohort members worldwide.

While most prior efforts to broaden participation have centered marginalized students by helping them to adapt to and survive in unwelcoming, toxic, and systemically oppressive environments, the aforementioned activities (and those of the greater Alliance) shift this focus to ensure that staff, educators, and administrators have the tools necessary to remove systemic barriers to student success in computing.


Washington, A. N., & Daily, S. B., & Sadler, C. (2023, June), Board 193: A Collective Action Approach to Broadening Participation in Computing Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland.


Computer Science, Computing, Diversity, Equity, Identity, Inclusion, Publications