Computer Science Diversity Committee

About the Committee

CS diversity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives are supported by the Computer Science Diversity committee. It was founded in 2016 and works to increase recruitment and retention of women and underrepresented minorities in computing. The work of the committee has been largely funded through a generous grant from Anne Popkin which was initiated by Fred Kavli Professor of Computer Science Radhika Nagpal.

The Computer Science Diversity Committee supports new initiatives as well as funds student travel to conferences such as Grace Hopper and Tapia.

The Committee is co-chaired by Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science James Mickens and Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science Cynthia Dwork, and the committee is supported by the Undergraduate Program Coordinator for Computer Science, Beth Musser. If you are interested in joining or learning more about the committee, please let us know.

Undergraduate Initiative Examples

Grace Hopper Conference

Every year, we hear about the impact of this conference on the academic and professional careers of our CS undergraduates. Students continually express gratitude for the experience, which leads to confidence in pursuing a CS concentration at Harvard, tech industry internships, and full-time employment and even academic careers in the field after graduation. Although some students have successfully acquired scholarship funding through industry sponsors, many express gratitude for the opportunity to attend as a Harvard group, which provides a more community-centered experience at this large event. With the conference taking place close to the start of the semester, the peer connections that students make with each other often turn into a larger support network for the rest of the semester and even for the rest of their time at Harvard.

Tapia Conference

Each year, the goal of the ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference is to bring together a diverse range of researchers and professionals in computing to celebrate, connect and share best practices, and inspire one another. Starting in 2016, the Tapia Conference changed its timing from spring to fall, which creates an early CS bonding experience for attendees that often continues far beyond the actual conference. Additionally, the timing of the conference is helpful for undergraduates who are searching for summer and full-time opportunities with employers that express a commitment to diversity in their organizations. Students are able to schedule on-site interviews for positions specifically advertised at the conference, while others are able to schedule final round interviews for jobs for which they are already in the application pool. During this conference, students are able to easily interact with Harvard faculty members over group meals at the conference, during informal meals local to the area, or even on the dance floor.


Teaching Fellow & Course Assistant Training

With the SEAS Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging and the Derek Bok Center, the CS Diversity Committee began a pilot program in Fall 2020 to train teaching staff in core undergraduate courses on how to integrate best practices and inclusive mindsets into their teaching. The SEAS Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging and the Derek Bok Center are working on ways to expand this program and institutionalize it into the future.


Graduate LEAP Alliance

About the LEAP Alliance

In 2017, Harvard SEAS joined the Diversifying LEAdership in the Professoriate (LEAP) Allianceformerly Diversifying Future Leadership in the Professoriate (FLIP) Alliance, a multi-university consortium created to increase the diversity of the leadership in Computer Science professoriate. The LEAP Alliance is made up of the institutions which were found to be the largest producers of computer science faculty at research universities:

  • Cornell University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Georgia Tech
  • Harvard University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Princeton University
  • Stanford University
  • University of California at Berkeley
  • University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
  • University of Texas
  • University of Washington

The work of the LEAP Alliance is funded by an NSF INCLUDES grant and was aimed at launching and demonstrating the effectiveness of strategies focused on recruiting and retaining diverse doctoral students at the LEAP institutions. Each LEAP institution must designate a LEAP Advocate to support all admitted and current CS PhD students from historically underrepresented backgrounds. The LEAP Co-Advocates for Harvard are Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science Cynthia Dwork and Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science James Mickens, with support from the Manager for Advising Programs and Diversity Outreach, Christina Zaldaña. If you are a current Harvard CS PhD student interested in learning more about the program, please let us know.

LEAP Initiative Examples

Professional Development Opportunities

LEAP institutions are able to offer a variety of professional development opportunities to their PhD students from historically underrepresented backgrounds, who are called the LEAP fellows. These opportunities range from sponsored attendance at the ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing conference each Fall, to sponsored attendance at various PhD summits in collaboration with corporate sponsors such as Microsoft and Google. Additionally, students at each LEAP institution are connected virtually across institutions through social media, as a way of forming a larger network throughout their PhD programs. 

Survey Data Collection

Both LEAP Advocates and LEAP Fellows are surveyed for qualitative and quantitative data to inform the effectiveness of recruitment and retention strategies that are deemed as best practices.