Spotlight

Cornell CIS Encouraging Minorities to Consider Academic Careers in STEM Through Summer Programs

Cornell Computing & Information Science (CIS) has made significant strides toward diversity in the past few years, including welcoming through the Engineering College an incoming undergraduate computer science class of 55% women and an incoming computer science PhD class of 36% women and 25% underrepresented minorities. One of the ways CIS is increasing diversity in its PhD and faculty applicants is by offering two summer workshops aimed at encouraging minorities in STEM to consider careers in academia. Held concurrently last week, the SoNIC Workshop and the Summer School on Design for Social Impact had some overlapping events and lectures but two very different programs.

This is the first year CIS has offered the Summer School on Design for Social Impact and was pleased to bring 20 rising undergraduate seniors or PhDs to campus all-expenses paid. The goal of the program is to build a diverse cohort of new researchers in the field. Interest in design for social impact is not only rising in industry and research, but also appealing to many students, who are motivated to make the world a better place and want to develop concrete ways to do so. This field of study works across information science by integrating social-scientific understanding of how technology interfaces with human life with design and engineering strategies that can concretely improve it. The format of the summer school was lectures, working groups led by a range of faculty from information science, and invited talks. Social events and meals were combined with the SoNIC Workshop to enhance the networking experience.

SoNIC continued its seventh summer success in Ithaca by inviting 25 students to Ithaca all-expenses-paid. This week-long workshop targets increasing participation of under-represented minorities at the PhD level in computer science. Participants take away an appreciation for cloud computing and network research at a top research university like Cornell.

“It’s super cool. We’ve been learning about cloud computing. We get the high level ideas and then dive deep to the point where we are actually coding how servers work. It’s not only three-hour research sessions, we get to hear from faculty about their careers and hear their stories,” said Kevin Sun, a junior computer science major at the University of Washington.

SoNIC participant Darien Nwankwo is an incoming CIS PhD student in computer science. “The SoNIC program helps you understand how you can study STEM at a graduate level especially as an under-represented minority. Sometimes people don’t understand that you can go to graduate school complete subsidized, especially in computer science.”

“We need to attract a more diverse set of workers to the field of computer science generally, and to CS research in particular,” said Professor Fred Schneider, computer science. “Events like SoNIC are an important mechanism for helping to achieve that goal.”

Deadline for the programs are in late winter.