The School of Computing and Information strives to train the next generation of innovators to change the world through computing. In a world with rapidly shifting economies, it is critical to be creators in the digital age, not just consumers. The education and business sectors are rapidly recognizing the benefits of computational thinking skills and how these skills increase economic opportunity and social mobility.
Despite the push for technically-skilled college graduates to fill the hundreds of thousands of computing and information related positions across the country, there exists a huge disparity in those who fill these positions. In 2015, only 22% of students taking the AP Computer Science exam were female, and only 13% were African-American or Latino/Latina. These statistics mirror the unfortunate reality at most of America’s largest technical firms in which women compose only 18% of the workforce, and African-Americans compose less than three percent. It is no secret that a diverse workforce is more productive and successful. Therefore, increasing the diversity of our students will not only benefit the discipline as a whole, but will also increase the diversity in the technical job sector.
The School of Computing and Information at the University of Pittsburgh is committed to increasing diversity in computing-related fields. Therefore, we have been developing various outreach programs over the last decade. Our programs aim to engage students across disciplines and grade levels to instill a passion for computer and information science and to create safe environments to promote learning and STEM education. These outreach programs range from middle school and high school programs such as our Technology Leadership Initiative (TLI), to programs targeting women and under-represented students like She Innovates (all-women’s hackathon) and WiCStart (camp for undeclared female freshmen students). Inclusion efforts to expand computing and information related opportunities for our youth, women, and minorities are essential for both the creative health of the field and the economic prosperity of the nation. We aspire to raise awareness, disseminate knowledge, and engage others in support of STEM education for all. Through the establishment of unique partnerships between university students, K-12 educators and students, and the local and global computing and information community, we have developed and implemented a number of educational programs and events that have reached thousands of students, educators, and university members.