Diversity in STEM: increasing Hispanics in computing

Diversity in STEM: increasing Hispanics in computing

EHE Professor works to increase Hispanics in computing

Dr. Anne-Marie NunezThe Ohio State University can now be added to the list of universities leading the way in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education and research. And Dr. Anne-Marie Nuñez, Associate Professor of Educational Studies, will play a significant role via a National Science Foundation INCLUDES grant, which is officially known as the NSF INCLUDES Alliance: Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

In early September, the National Science Foundation announced five new awards as part of its INCLUDES Program. The INCLUDES program was conceived with the goal of creating a long-term and nationally-connected effort to broaden the participation of diverse groups in STEM education and careers. The 9.9 million dollar grant was recently awarded to Professor Ann Gates, PhD, of the University of Texas at El Paso and will be distributed amongst several institutions that make up CAHSI.

In 2004 Dr. Gates was instrumental in the creation of Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (CAHSI). CAHSI works toward raising the amount of Hispanic students who attain advanced degrees in Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering. CAHSI’s long-term goal is for Hispanic students to compose at least 20% of those who earn computing credentials in the U.S. by 2030.

Often socioeconomic status, or even simply geographic location, dictates a student’s degree of exposure to STEM courses, which has created a STEM workforce that hardly resembles the actual United States population. This has occurred alongside a steady decline in the U.S.’s international ranking in these areas in relation to other industrialized nations.

In the long run, Dr. Nuñez hopes that the research opportunities yielded by the grant will result in data and insights that help faculty and staff members at institutions around the country increase the overall success of Hispanic students in computing. With backing from the grant,Dr. Nuñez will serve as Co-Investigator, a primary research role, with CAHSI founder Professor Gates as the lead.

Dr. Nuñez gave some of her thoughts on the good fortune of receiving an INCLUDES grant and the complexities of the issues surrounding it.

On collaboration with Professor Ann Gates:
“Working with Principal Investigator Ann Gates and her team to write this grant was a very positive experience. Ann Gates has been very successful in building the capacity to serve Latinx students in computing science through obtaining grants, engaging corporate sponsors, and developing new programs and strategies.

“The grant team was very organized in coordinating the collaboration of several institutions across the country that have different roles in the initiative. Although it was my first time submitting a grant with the alliance, the grant writing team gave me considerable independence to draw on my expertise to develop a new component for the alliance: educational research to advance understanding about Latinx success in computing science that is grounded in the experiences of HSI’s (Hispanic-serving institutions) and the students who attend them.”

On STEM and the changing U.S. population:
“The demographic representation of racial/ethnic groups in the U.S. is changing rapidly. In 1970, Latinx constituted just 4% of the population. Now, in 2018, they constitute nearly 20%. The youngest and fastest growing racial/ethnic groups are Latinx and Asian Americans. Six in ten Latinxs are 35 and younger. These developments have significant implications for the composition of the U.S. workforce.”

On the U.S.’s global standing in regards to STEM:
“In recent years, the USA’s overall postsecondary attainment and number of patents have been decreasing relative to other countries. From a workforce perspective, targeting education for historically underrepresented groups represents a growth opportunity in training for STEM fields.

“When historically underrepresented groups have access to supportive and inclusive STEM education, there are at least three benefits. The first is growth in the capacity for research and development of new ideas, because research repeatedly shows that the engagement of more diverse perspectives results in a greater capacity to address complex research problems. Involving perspectives that typically have not informed research can lead to new insights in knowledge creation. Second, focusing on historically underrepresented groups in STEM represents the greatest opportunity to increase the numbers of students who participate and graduate in STEM fields. Third, increasing diversity in STEM along dimensions like race/ethnicity, gender, class, and disability can also increase the likelihood that the STEM workforce can develop innovative products and patents.”

On exposing young students to STEM courses:
“It is critical that all children have access to opportunities to take STEM courses early on that will guide them toward college preparatory classes in high school. Mathematics is a particularly important curricular area, as taking advanced mathematics is among the most important predictors of college enrollment and completion. Early on, educating families with minimal college experience about the type of coursework required to pursue college, as well as other steps in the college search and application process, is critical.

“Researchers, practitioners, and policymakers must focus on academic, financial, social, and cultural arenas. They must also focus on inclusive campus climates.”

On the benefits of a INCLUDES Grant:
“The grant will enable me to combine my three research lines: success of students from historically underrepresented groups, HSI’s, and inclusive environments in science. It will be one of the first projects ever to focus on organizational behavior in STEM fields in HSI’s. The project will afford a great learning opportunity in areas like STEM education, public and institutional policy, organizational behavior, minority-serving institutions, and Latinx student success, among others. With the grant, I will also be able to provide support, including funding, to graduate students who are already interested in conducting research related to these issues.” 

On her current research:
“More recently, with National Science Foundation funding, I have been engaged in developing inclusive organizational cultures in STEM fields, with the aim of broadening participation among diverse students in those fields. Currently, this work focuses on the geosciences, a discipline in which racial/ethnic representation has not changed over the past 40 years, despite investments during that time by the NSF and other agencies to increase racial/ethnic representation.”

On continued research:
“The types of students involved in most studies published to date are different from those students that tend to enroll in HSI’s (who are far more likely to be people of color, employed full-time or part-time, commuting students, and/or low-income). More research is needed about the experiences and outcomes in STEM of students like those who attend HSIs, and about the organizational conditions within HSI’s that affect capacity building for student success.”

Computer photo by Alexandre Debiève on Unsplash