The Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT (CMD-IT) announced Howard University as the recipient of the fourth annual CMD-IT University Award for Retention of Minorities and Students with Disabilities in Computer Science. The University Award recognizes US institutions that have demonstrated a commitment and shown results for the retention of students from underrepresented groups in undergraduate Computer Science programs over the last five years. The award is focused on the following underrepresented groups: African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, and People with Disabilities. Howard University received the award on September 17th at the 2020 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Virtual Conference. The award included a $15,000 cash award.
The CMD-IT University Award decision was based on Howard University‘s impressive quantitative reported results, which reflected high retention and graduation rates, and qualitative reporting on their various retention programs. In particular, Howard University highlighted the following programs as directly impacting retention:
Inside the Classroom
Google in Residence
Google in Residence (GIR) is a program that embeds Google engineers as faculty at Howard and about ten Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the United States (Washington et al, 2015). The coding language taught in the course is Python so that students do not have to worry about the syntactic issues that accompany using C++ in an introductory programming course. The GIR program was piloted and first envisioned by CS program administrators as the need for hands-on learning was more evident to its students and faculty. The GIR program takes a software engineer working in Silicon Valley and gives them the opportunity to expose the students to projects, problems, and technology that Silicon Valley has solved or is currently solving in our introductory to Computing (CS0) course. This course is open to majors and non-majors at Howard University.
Howard West Initiative
Howard West Initiative The Howard West initiative is a program that immerses computer science undergraduate students in Silicon Valley culture, projects, and problems. The semester long program was first piloted in the Summer of 2017 at Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters. Students were co-taught by a Howard professor and a Google engineer in classes such as Software Engineering, Mobile Applications Development, and Machine Learning.
Outside the Classroom
CS Bootcamp Program
The Howard University CS Bootcamp Program is a peer-tutoring initiative that is designed to help computer science undergraduates in the Introduction to Computing (CS0), Introduction to Computer Science (CS1), and the Introductory to Data Structures (CS2) courses. Twice a week, underclassmen attend Bootcamp sessions to gain extra practice and assistance with concepts covered in each of the three classes. This includes practice problems, strategies, reviewing lecture notes, etc. These courses were chosen because they are the first three courses that every CS student must not only complete, but also pass with a grade of a ‘C’ or better to continue on to the next class. In addition, CS 1 and CS 2 are the courses where most attrition within the department occurs.
To recognize students that contribute to the program outside of the classroom, we have created
an annual BIT (Bison Innovation and Talent) award that recognizes innovation and technological
achievements, as well as membership in the discipline. Awards for membership in the discipline
include recognition for mentoring, student leadership, activities that improve the sense of
community, as well as social and technical professional development. Previous winners of the
awards as well as other diverse achievements are given ‘Spotlights’ in the forms of posters and
recognition in the monthly program emails.
All nominations and awards are student-led and categories include:
• Most Helpful Student
• Likely to be a successful Tech Innovator and Entrepreneur
• Likely to innovate for Social Impact
• Likely to get their Ph.D.
• Most Inspiring Student
• Hype Award: Keeps the CS Community Going