I have a personal story about the lack of diversity in Computer Science programs in our nation to tell and this story hurts me so bad every day since I started my career at UofSC that I would like to fix it, well not fix it totally, but contribute in my way and be a small part of this!
Here is my story:
Frustration: I am so frustrated why our computer science programs, nationwide as well as UofSC, is so low. Let me give you an example, I have been teaching CSCE 580: Artificial Intelligence and CSCE 585: Machine Learning Systems since Fall 2018 when I joined UofSC. In both classes, the number of women and girls, blacks, Hispanics, native Americans, disables, and few other underrepresented and under-served in the STEM enterprise has been so low, at least in my classes they were less than 10%. This is too bad. It hurts my feeling. Even though I tried to encourage many of these under-represented groups by advocating CSforALL, I felt that nothing has been changed since then.
Why it hurts? I graduated from Iran many years ago(!) and in my class at least the percentage of female and male students were somehow equal (though the diversity in other aspects were terrible). I also worked at CMU as a post-doc for two years and this was so different from other universities in the US, the diversity at least in terms of percentage of female/male students was healthy and almost equal in the CS programs.
Here is my goal: I set a goal for my career to fix this diversity issue at least in our CS programs, I will do whatever it takes, even to devote a major time during my tenure track career. I strongly believe that all of us have to play our part. UofSC has several STEM/diversity related activities, they are all great, but I would like to play my own part very actively.
Here are my actions (will be updated as we go):
- [March 5, 2021]: AISys hosted Lane Stanley, a Junior at Heathwood Hall, for a week long internship to work on ATHENA.
- [Feb 23, 2021]: AISys started working with Rohan Bafna, a Junior at Riverside High School, for a long term collaboration on our TinyML project.
- [September 11, 2020]: For me, the School of Computer Science at CMU has been the most diverse environment that I have seen in the US and had the pleasure to work in compared to any other CS departments. They have started a fantastic effort to increase diversity and remedy racial disparity. I signed the letter to show my support for this initiative and am starting a similar initiative in our CSE department at UofSC.
- [September 5, 2020]: I came across an inspiring movie called Picture a Scientist that shows social scientists, neuroscientists, and psychologists - who provide new perspectives on how to make science itself more diverse, equitable, and open to all.
- [September 2, 2020]: I talked with Csilla Farkas, the Associate Dean for Diversity, Engagement, and Inclusion regarding some of the current activities for promoting diversity at college and in the CSE department. We also discussed about important issues that I can potentially contribute such as outreach.
- [September 1, 2020]: I participated in the Women in Computing meeting to learn more about the activities in the organization and I offered my help to the members.
- [August 28, 2020]: I talked about our exciting NASA RASPBERRY SI project to sophomore and junior seminar class. I plan to hire two students from under-represented groups to be involved in this exciting project.
- [August 16, 2020]: I discussed a plan to prepare a demo of our work on Athena framework that launch adversarial attacks on the AWS DeepLens that sits on top of the Husky robot. We will use this demo for showing primary school and high school students how they can simply generated adversarial attacks to trick the robot to hit an obstacle.
- [August 15, 2020]: I did a bit of coding here with Jekkyl to share my previous outreach activities to schools in the past as a part of CSforALL activities via my Instagram.
- [August 12, 2020]: We have some very exciting projects with NASA one on making space landers autonomous and one on physics-informed deep learning. I will hire two undergraduate students from Claflin (HBCU) with the help of my collaborator, Karina Liles.
- [August 10, 2020]: I had a fantastic discussion with one of our female colleagues, Kristen Booth, to understand better why the diversity of our CS/Eng programs are so low and what we can do to potentially fix some of these issues. I am so excited that we have set some goals to collaborate on this diversity issue at UofSC.
View this post on Instagram
Such a honor and pleasure to speak with these young kids @claflin1869 about some of our recent research and some exciting opportunities in my group as a part of our recent @nasa project, #diversity matters, we all should pay attention to it, computer science suffers a lot from diversity issues, I only have less than 10% of underrepresented groups (female, blacks, hispanic, 🏳️🌈) in my #artificialintelligence and #machinelearning classes at @uofsc @uofsc_cec, so I decided to do something about it actively, checkout this and get in touch if I can help with anything, increasing diversity is my priority #csforall: https://pooyanjamshidi.github.io/diversity/