Unscripted with Unscripted Reels

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The National Science and Technology Medals Foundation hosted a video series to showcase the work that AiiCE has done in making the computer science field more equitable and inclusive for all

Shaundra Daily
Unscripted with Unscripted Reels

The National Science Foundation awarded the Alliance for Identity-Inclusive Computing Engineering (AiiCE) $10 million over five years to address and reduce the barriers in K-16 education that hinder marginalized students from computing in academic and professional environments.

Nicki Washington, the Cue Family Professor of the Practice of Computer Science and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Duke, and Shaundra Daily, the Cue Family Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science at Duke, are the leaders of AiiCE. The alliance strives to empower future generations of computer scientists by eliminating systemic barriers that prevent certain groups of people from equal opportunities and having a seat at the table. 

AiiCE also aims to increase and normalize student’s course enrollment and degree completion regardless of their multifaceted identities. 

“What we do is bring awareness to the fact that identity matters and that identity impacts computing, and it’s also impacted by computing,” Washington said. “Organizations and individuals should work with students and with each other in a way that ensures they are knowledgeable about these differences, they are culturally competent, and they are aware of how to address these oppressions and know what they look like, including the nuance that exists, and create communities around that.” 

Over the course of five episodes, The National Science and Technology Medals Foundation (NSTMF) interviewed core AiiCE members for season two of their video series Unscripted Reels to showcase the importance of their work and its impact.  

In her interview, Washington highlighted the seriousness of addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the computer science field, arguing that the absence of DEI will negatively impact technology and society at large.  

If we don’t have people in computing who are reflective of the world as a whole, then our technologies that we develop won’t be appropriate for the world as a whole.

Shaundra Daily Cue Family Professor of the Practice of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University

“All of these technologies that are at the forefront of the news every day [artificial intelligence or facial recognition] are the way they are because we lack that inclusion and equity behind the scenes,” Washington said. “When you don’t have a diverse group of individuals at the table, then you don’t have everyone thinking about questions like, ‘Who does this harm? Who does this hurt? Who does this help?’”

Brianna Blaser, DO-IT counselor/Coordinator at the University of Washington and member of the AiiCE leadership team, dives deeper by highlighting the importance of academia, like identity-inclusive computing education, in empowering the youth and creating systemic change.

In particular, Blaser said that often, efforts to broaden participation in computer science are restricted to the “gender binary and race and ethnicity,” excluding other marginalized identities, like disability, from the conversation altogether. 

When you don’t have a diverse group of individuals at the table, then you don’t have everyone thinking about questions like, ‘Who does this harm? Who does this hurt? Who does this help?’

Nikki Washington Cue Family Professor of the Practice of Computer Science at Duke University

For example, she said that many programming tools used in high school classrooms, like AP computer science, are inaccessible to blind students, creating a significant barrier to participation and exposure to the field. Thus, Blaser argued that, while recruiting people from marginalized groups into tech spaces is crucial, “a whole other piece of it is teaching about accessibility and disability within the computer science curriculum,” so that future technology can be inclusive for all.  

NSTMF’s overall support and documentation of AiiCE in their video series has helped spread their advocacy work and message to broader audiences outside of the computer science community, expanding their future support and recognition. NSTMF has access to people in other nonprofits, the federal government, private industries, and even the White House, helping AiiCE broaden its resources and continue its growth. 

“If we don’t have people in computing who are reflective of the world as a whole, then our technologies that we develop won’t be appropriate for the world as a whole,” Daily said.

Alliance for Identity-Inclusive Computing Education

DEIC in Computing at Duke