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Designed to Disrupt: A Novel Course for Improving the Cultural Competence of Undergraduate Computing Students


While there exist numerous efforts to broaden participation in computing, university computing departments (like the tech industry) still suffer from a lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) [1], [2]. Despite commitments to fostering inclusive and equitable environments for students from diverse identities, current efforts have only marginally increased representation. This paper posits that this marginal improvement is because traditional efforts primarily center students from minoritized groups through deficit-based approaches such as mentoring, affinity groups, and readiness programs. However, these approaches fail to acknowledge and address the departmental cultures that include macro/microaggressions, biases, oppression, and intersectional experiences that are unrelated to students’ academic abilities, yet significantly impact their sense of belonging and productivity. In addition, these challenges are also experienced by faculty of the same identities, as issues such as biased course evaluations and harmful work environments impact hiring, promotion, and tenure decisions [3]–[6].

Instead, there is a need to decenter students from minoritized groups and ensure that all computing students (especially those from dominant identities based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, and socioeconomic class) develop/improve their cultural competence prior to graduation. Cultural competence describes “a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals and enable that system, agency, or those professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations” [7]. Accomplishing this in computing requires more intentional and innovative approaches, where students explore identity- inclusive computing (i.e., how identity impacts and is impacted by computing [8]).


Computing, Courses, Publications, Students, Undergraduate