The Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT (CMD-IT) announced The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) as the recipient of the third 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, sponsored by Microsoft, is focused on the following underrepresented groups: African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, and People with Disabilities. UTEP received the award on September 19th at the 2019 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing in San Diego, California. The award included a $15,000 cash award.

The CMD-IT University Award decision was based on UTEP’s impressive quantitative reported results, which reflected high retention and graduation rates, and qualitative reporting on their various retention programs. In particular, UTEP highlighted the following programs as directly impacting retention:

  • Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institution (CAHSI), which is led by UTEP and has been funded by the NSF Broadening Participation in Computing since 2006, is a consortium of over 40 institutions with a focus on the recruitment, retention, and advancement of Hispanics in Computing. CAHSI has adopted a collective impact framework to support collaborative change through five key conditions: Common Agenda; Backbone Support; Continuous Communication; Mutually Reinforcing Activities; and Shared Measurement.

  • Implementation of the Affinity Research Group Model (ARG). The ARG model, which was developed at UTEP in the late 1990’s, is a set of practices built on a cooperative team framework imbued with cooperative-learning principles, which have been shown to increase student achievement and self-esteem. ARG supports the creation and maintenance of dynamic and inclusive research groups in which students learn and apply the knowledge and skills required for research and cooperative work, emphasizing the conscious and explicit development of skills. In addition to its application to research groups, ARG practices have been incorporated into classrooms in which structured team-based activities are needed.

  • Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) is a model of instruction for introductory STEM courses that introduces a peer-led workshop as an integral part of the course. In PLTL, a student who was previously successful in the course is recruited to lead students in weekly workshops to problem solve and discuss course content. PLTL is known for its ability to help minority students succeed. PLTL is used in the first three introductory CS courses.

  • The CS Department’s NSF-funded Revolutionizing Engineering and Computer Science Education (RED) efforts in the areas of equity and inclusion, student professional development, and career pathways.

  • Microsoft named El Paso a TechSpark City. TechSpark is a national civic program aimed at fostering greater economic opportunity and job creation through partnerships with rural and smaller metropolitan communities, including digital transformation, digital skills and computer science education, career pathways, rural broadband, and support for nonprofits.