It's no secret that tech lacks diversity. For most companies, less than 20% of individuals in technical roles identify as female. Less than 20% identify as non-white, non-asian. These are just reported categories. It should be obvious. We, Silicon Valley, have a diversity problem.
A small Cal State fifty miles south of San Jose is doing something about it. As of 2018
CSUMB accounts for 5.8% of all CS graduates in the CSU system (23 schools), but represents 9% of all graduates in the CSU system identifying as female. The university represents 7.6% of all graduates in the CSU system identifying from a Latinx background.
The university is creating opportunity in computer science at a rate higher than any other CSU in the system, thanks to the work of the School of Computing and Design (SCD). Established through alumni donations in early 2015, the SCD Diversity Fund represents a two part plan to create a more diverse and inclusive industry.
- To encourage opportunity for students currently enrolled at CSUMB, the **Diversity Conference Program **will send individuals in good academic standing to conferences and events such as Grace Hopper, Self.Conference, and Out For Undergrad
- Giving back to the communities that surround the university, the Technology Ambassador Program encourages current students and CSUMB alumni to return to their schools within the Monterey/Salinas area and inspire the next generation of students to overcome the challenges of the Digital Divide
This is a program I am excited to have a hand in both founding and funding.
The SCD Diversity Fund is an ambitious five year plan. While funded through the CSUMB alumni working in Silicon Valley, the program can only reach a fraction of the university's students. To grow the effort, we are calling upon the alumni, community, and people who believe in the Vision of CSUMB to continue to develop the fund. 100% of the donations are allocated towards the university's commitment to diversity in technology.
On the CSUMB Donation page, you can designate SCD Diversity. (The fund's 5-year program has concluded)
The SCD Diversity Fund is allocated in the following manner:
- 65% of contributions go towards the Diversity Conference Program
- 20% of contributions go towards the Technology Ambassador Program
- 15% of contributions enable the School of Communication & Design to pursue additional diversity efforts outside of the above two programs
You can find CSUMB's enrollment fact sheet online.
The fund is live and contributions from the Alumni community have helped make an impact in student lives and included sending over 30 students to their first conferences in 2016. To maximize the number of students exposed to a conference environment, students took busses to the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, while the fund subsidized the admission costs.
Students underrepresented in Computer Science attended Adobe MAX in 2017, while the School of Computing and Design launching the Technology Ambassador Program in the local tri-county area. More than a dozen students and faculty visited eighteen different high schools to share their experiences and expose students to opportunities in computer science.
In addition to a return to Adobe MAX, the fund also enabled students to attend the Game Developer Conference and the International Collegiate Programing Competition as part of the 2018 conference program. The technology ambassador program visited an additional eight schools, reaching out to hundreds of underrepresented students considering careers in computer science. Finally, with expanded funding, the SCD Diversity fund also sponsored the SCD Game Jam, a 30-hour weekend-long event for CS game design students across CSUMB's diverse student body.
The School of Computing and Design continued their pattern of enabling both design and computer science students in SCD to attend conferences, while the TAP program returned to every Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito county school visited in prior years. The computer science department's revised mission outlines their diversity-centric goals:
- Increase the percentage of women in the CS program to over 30%
- Increase the percentage of underrepresented students in the CS program to over 30%
A lot happened in 2020. With the fund's focus on enabling success for underrepresented groups in computer science, it made sense to fund students' at-home success through technology. This meant webcams, modems and routers, and even funding repairs of student equipment when necessary. The digital divide was on display more than ever during the pandemic, and it required incredible effort to help students succeed. The success is best measured in retention; funds enabled more than a dozen students to stay enrolled in an environment where the pandemic would have put a stop to their education goals.