Ethnic Diversity in Computer Science at a Large Public R1 Research University

Monica Babes-Vroman, Andrew Tjang, Thu D. Nguyen

Even with recent increases in enrollments, computer science departments in the United States are not producing the number of graduates that the computing workforce needs, an issue that impacts the scientific and economic growth of our country. Because the computer science field is predicted to grow, it is important to draw from demographic groups that are growing in the US. At the same time, increasing the representation of students from minority groups will include a more diverse perspective in the development of new technologies. Previous work has addressed the low representation of students of color in computer science classes at the high-school level and explored what are the causes for those low numbers. In this paper, we study patterns of recruitment and retention among minority students at a large R1 research university in order to understand the unique challenges in racial and ethnic diversity that computer science departments face. We use student data from a set of three core curriculum computer science classes at a large public research university and answer questions about the ethnic gap in our department, how it has changed with the recent increase in student enrollments, and how it changes as students progress through the major. We also analyze our students' intent to major when they are taking our introductory programming class, and how many of our CS1 students take more advanced classes. We measure retention rates for students in each ethnic group, how do their prior experiences differ, if there is a difference between groups in how many of them change their minds about majoring after taking CS1, and whether or not their grades are correlated with a change in their intent to major.We show that students from different race/ethnicity groups are not as different as it is perceived by the public.

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