The Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT (CMD-IT) has announced that University of North Carolina Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) has been awarded the second 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. University of North Carolina Charlotte will receive the award on September 20th at the 2018 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing in Orlando, Florida. The award will include a $15,000 cash award.

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

  • Implementation of the Connected Learner program. The program focuses on connecting students to peers, the profession, and the community. The program vision is to transform the student entering an undergraduate computing and informatics program from a person with an interest in computing, to a person with an identity as a computing professional. The program shifts faculty attitudes from knowledge transmission to educational activities that scaffold the computing knowledge and skills to build successful computing professionals. The Connected Learner program builds a sustainable practice of educational innovation across the undergraduate computing curriculum by increasing faculty awareness of teaching innovations, resources for pedagogical change, and support for teaching practices that engage students.

  • Establishing multiple new scholarship programs that focus on promoting economic mobility and seek to diversify the student populations.

  • Computing outreach to K12 through the STARS program (Students in Technology, Academia, Research and Service). Since 2006, the College of Computing and Informatics (CCI) students have provided community outreach programs to 2400 K-12 students.

  • The College of Computing and Informatics (CCI) has been awarded a National Science Foundation CISE REU Site since 2006 in which their labs host 10-15 undergraduate researchers each summer. The program goal is to recruit, retain and prepare a more diverse student population for graduate programs in computing.

  • Creation of a task force by the CCI Dean to measurably increase undergraduate diversity. Retention strategies include programs such as a peer tutoring, corporate mentoring, peer mentoring, acquisition of dedicated meeting spaces for women and underrepresented minority student organizations.

  • Implementation of Improvisation Workshops to address bias and microaggressions in classroom and lab environments.