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Infusing Inclusion, Diversity, and Social Justice into the Undergraduate Computer Science Curriculum at Boise State University

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2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 29, 2018

Start Date

April 29, 2018

End Date

May 2, 2018

Conference Session

Undergraduate Track - Technical Session II

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Undergraduate Education

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Paper Authors


Donald Winiecki Ph.D. Boise State University

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Don Winiecki, Ed.D., Ph.D. is the `Professor of Ethics & Morality in Professional Practice` in the Boise State University, College of Engineering. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in `Foundational Values` and `Professional Ethics` in the Computer Science Department and Organizational Performance & Workplace Learning Department in the Boise State University College of Engineering. His research focuses on technology-in -use as an influence on social morals and social ethics.

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Noah Salzman Boise State University

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Noah Salzman is an Assistant Professor at Boise State University, where he is a member of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and IDoTeach, a pre-service STEM teacher preparation program. His work focuses on the transition from pre-college to university engineering programs, how exposure to engineering prior to matriculation affects the experiences of engineering students, and engineering in the K-12 classroom. He has worked as a high school science, mathematics, and engineering and technology teacher, as well as several years of electrical and mechanical engineering design experience as a practicing engineer. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from Swarthmore College, his Master's of Education degree from the University of Massachusetts, and a Master's of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Doctorate in Engineering Education from Purdue University.

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Timothy Andersen Boise State University


Amit Jain Boise State University

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Amit Jain is an Associate Professor and Associate Chair of Computer Science Department in the College of Engineering at Boise State University. He is passionate about introducing computer science to students and has served as the coordinator for Computer Science I course. His research interests include parallel computing. He has worked with ten different departments and several private companies with research funding from several agencies. He has also served as the Chief Scientist for Balihoo, a Boise software company. He holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Central Florida and a B.Tech. in Computer Science & Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi.

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Dianxiang Xu Boise State University

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That groups other than white or Asian males are not well-represented in education or professions related with computer science is well documented. Research shows that popularly-held notions accounting for this are inaccurate or simply false. Instead, persistent expression of biased social values is asserted to account for the fact that members of underrepresented groups either never choose to pursue or cease pursuit of careers in computer science.

Regardless, private and public interest in attaining equity and social justice remains strong. Often, efforts are focused on top-down initiatives to attract and retain a more diverse set of individuals. However, these have shown limited success in changing the demographics in computer science. With support from industry, our transformation of the undergraduate computer science curriculum aims to change the culture from the bottom-up, with support from the top and the middle.

Our interventions are built around a `Foundational Values` course for first-year students, where examples of bias in interpersonal and corporate interactions and in products created by professionals are analyzed through team activities guided by rubrics based on the social-justice theories of John Rawls. The product is both (a) a set of social-contract statements identifying personal and organizational responsibilities addressing issues in each case, and (b) practice in developing social and intellectual habits for addressing similar issues. These rubrics and activities are also included in subsequent courses.

By beginning the computer-science curriculum with a course that guides students to address such issues, we aim to help students change the culture starting from the bottom-up. By diffusing these interventions through the curriculum we aim to help students develop broader understanding of what constitutes bias in professional and social life, and intellectual habits and skills to address it in a systematic way.

In our paper, we will describe development of interventions, and present early data documenting effects.

Winiecki, D., & Salzman, N., & Andersen, T., & Jain, A., & Xu, D. (2018, April), Infusing Inclusion, Diversity, and Social Justice into the Undergraduate Computer Science Curriculum at Boise State University Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia.

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