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Illinois CS Hosts First-Of-Its-Kind NSF Workshop on Departmental Plans for Broadening Participation in Computing

1/10/2020 11:29:04 AM Jancie Philippus Harris, Illinois CS

As computing continues to progress and define modern society, a commitment to diversity, equity, access, and inclusion in the computing field is critical for continued innovation and global benefit. In an effort to support expanded access to computing, Illinois Computer Science hosted the first-ever Workshop on Departmental Plans for Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC).

On November 13-15, 2019, eighty-six leaders from thirty-one computing institutions from around the United States were invited to campus to develop Departmental Plans for Broadening Participation in Computing. The workshop was sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and was organized by Nancy M. Amato (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Tracy Camp (Colorado School of Mines), Mary Hall (University of Utah), and Ron Metoyer (University of Notre Dame). Crucial to the workshop’s success was the breadth of experience represented at the workshop – teams attended from public and private institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and computing departments large and small. 

The NSF's Jeffrey Forbes, Director of the Broadening Participation in Computing Alliance Program, speaks with workshop participants.
The NSF's Jeffrey Forbes, Director of the Broadening Participation in Computing Alliance Program, speaks with workshop participants.

Departmental BPC Plans are part of an initiative established by the NSF Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) aimed at increasing the participation of groups or populations who are underrepresented in computing-related disciplines.  

First announced in a July 2017 NSF Dear Colleague Letter, the BPC pilot effort now requires Principal Investigators to include meaningful BPC Plans in a subset of CISE’s research programs, including its marquee Expeditions in Computing program, the newly announced National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Institutes, the Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program, and Medium and Large proposals in the core programs of the CISE Divisions of Computing and Communication Foundations, Computer and Network Systems, and Information and Intelligent Systems. CISE is planning to phase in this requirement for all of its research programs. 

The BPC effort aspires to usher in a broad culture change throughout computing institutions.  According to the NSF CISE Directorate, BPC Plans “strongly encourage meaningful actions that address the longstanding underrepresentation in computing and closely related disciplines of various populations including women, minorities, and persons with disabilities.” BPC Plans outline activities, goals, and metrics departments use to provide more inclusive environments at all levels: K-12, undergraduate, graduate, and faculty. The BPC Plan requirement seeks to raise awareness about the importance of broadening participation in computing and educate and engage the entire CISE community in BPC efforts.

Workshop co-organizer Tracy Camp gives a presentation to participants.
Workshop co-organizer Tracy Camp gives a presentation to participants.

This bold charge from the NSF CISE Directorate necessitates educational opportunities, such as the workshop, to inform the computing community about the Directorate’s goals and to help them develop BPC plans tailored to their institution. Representatives from the National Science Foundation, Computing Research Association, and other leaders with BPC expertise presented plenary talks and worked with participants in breakout and feedback sessions to help teams draft their plans. Eventually, teams will share their plans on the BPCnet Portal, providing additional BPC resources for the computing community.

The opportunity to host the BPC Departmental Plans workshop strengthened Illinois CS’s own role as a leader in the commitment to broadening participation in computing. Amato, Associate Professor Hari Sundaram and Professor Jeff Erickson served as BPC workshop team representatives from Illinois CS. 

Illinois CS Department Head Nancy M. Amato
Illinois CS Department Head Nancy M. Amato

“Increased participation in computing is crucial for continued leadership in research and innovation, and it is necessary to provide access to the opportunities in this exciting field to all,” said Amato. “As a leading computer science program at a large public land-grant university, we have the opportunity to serve as a role model for access and inclusion in computing for the academic community.  As a department, we take this responsibility seriously and are excited by the changes that we are already seeing from our efforts.” 

Current Illinois CS BPC activities include the Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates, the recent 2019 Rising Stars in EECS workshop, Girls Who Code, ChicTech, and more.

For more information about Illinois CS BPC initiatives, please visit the BPC Program Page.

Participants, Workshop on Departmental Plans for Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC)
Participants, Workshop on Departmental Plans for Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC)