Howard University’s computer science program wins diversity award

September 20, 2020 By [email protected]_84 Off

The award from the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT celebrates retention of underrepresented groups in undergraduate computer science programs.

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Howard University, a historically Black university located in Washington, DC, has been awarded the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT (CMD-IT) University Award for Retention of Minorities and Students With Disabilities in Computer Science for the year 2020.

The award, now in its fourth year, focuses on representation of African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, and people with disabilities in undergraduate computer science programs, and includes a $15,000 cash prize for the winning institution. 

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“We, the electrical engineering and computer science department, are extremely honored to have been recognized by winning the 2020 CMD-IT University Award for Retention of Minorities and Students with Disabilities in Computer Science. We are committed to creating computing curriculum that is socially and culturally aware, while maintaining the quality of our program,” said Ahmed Rubaai, professor and chair of Howard’s electrical engineering and computer science department.

CMD-IT chooses its winner based not only on quantitative reports on five years of retention data, but also on qualitative elements as well. Qualitative criteria include the particular retention programs in place, details about the degree-granting unit, and contextual details about the nominated institution. 

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Howard University, CMD-IT said, had impressive quantitative results, and it singled out three particular programs in the computer science department that directly contributed to retention.

Howard University is one of 10 historically Black college and university participants in Google’s Google In Residence program, which places a Google software engineer in a university to teach computer science courses. “The GIR program takes a software engineer working in Silicon Valley and gives them the opportunity to expose the students to projects, problems, and technology that Silicon Valley has solved or is currently solving,” CMD-IT said.

The university’s Howard West initiative was created in cooperation with Google to immerse computer science undergraduate students in Silicon Valley culture, projects, and problems by placing them at Google’s headquarters for the summer semester. During that time, students are co-taught by Howard professors and Google engineers on topics including software engineering, mobile app development, and machine learning. Howard University is currently in talks with other tech companies to expand the program.

Howard also offers the Howard University CS Bootcamp Program, a tutoring initiative for computer science undergraduates taking introductory CS courses. The program involves twice-weekly bootcamp sessions run by junior and senior CS undergraduates that cover recently covered topics and provide practice and assistance to those in need.

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