Putting in the work for positive change

A message from the Allen School leadership team

June 11, 2020

Allen School Inclusiveness Statement

Diversity, equity and inclusion are important at the Allen School. The Allen School is a community that celebrates and values differences among its members. We strive to create an inclusive environment for people of all backgrounds. Our department is diverse in race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, ability/disability, age, socioeconomic background, academic experience, veteran status, and many more dimensions than we can list here. A commitment to diversity and inclusion is a fundamental part of our mission as a public educational institution. We have an obligation to uphold these values.

This commitment to inclusion is specifically important to our work in computer science and engineering. An inclusive community allows all our students, staff, and faculty to achieve their full potential. Our diversity makes us better educators, and makes us more effective at identifying and solving important problems. As we educate new generations of scholars and engineers, our inclusion of voices from many backgrounds and identities helps us ensure that computation equitably serves all members of our society.

How are we inclusive? As leading teachers and scholars of computer science and engineering, we set an example of inclusion. It is our responsibility to acknowledge and counteract the historical inequities in our field. Our community takes concrete actions, such as the following, to work towards an actively inclusive environment:

  • We reduce bias in admissions and hiring to build a diverse community of students, staff, researchers, and faculty;
  • We build inclusive pedagogy and policies to create an excellent and welcoming atmosphere in which all students can learn; 
  • We broaden participation in computing through outreach to underrepresented communities; 
  • We consider many perspectives and stakeholders in the research questions we ask and the methods we use to answer them; 
  • We insist on a robust and professional intellectual environment where debate and diverse views can be expressed vigorously and free of personal attacks; 
  • We value, support, and reward people who work for inclusiveness; and
  • We act together as citizens of our university, discipline, industry, and world to spread inclusiveness beyond our walls. 
The Inclusiveness Statement was written by the Allen School Diversity Committee, a coalition of faculty, staff, and students from across the school. To contact the Diversity Committee, email diversity@cs.uw.edu. 

Making Good on Our Commitment

The Allen School’s work to broaden participation and promote diversity and inclusion includes the investment of resources and the efforts of many individuals and groups. Faculty, staff, and students incorporate this mission into their teaching, research, and work. Collaboration with other UW offices and external organizations are crucial to our success. Investment from donors and industry partners support our efforts.

Below we provide a high level view of our work in supporting women and in supporting people with disabilities, two areas where we have made significant investment over many years and have seen progress (although we are certainly not where we need to be!), and of our work in supporting other underrepresented groups, an area of greatly increased recent focus. For a detailed look at our efforts, see our Latest Initiatives and Ongoing Activities.

Engaging Women in the Field

We have made significant strides in the Allen School in encouraging more women to pursue computer science and engineering. One-third of our CS bachelor’s degrees are now earned by women (significantly above the national average) and twenty-five percent of our Ph.D. students are women. Our progress has earned national recognition: in 2011 we became an NCWIT Pacesetter School, and in 2015 we earned the inaugural NCWIT NEXT Award grand prize for our success in recruiting and retaining women in undergraduate computer science by growing "an inclusive, welcoming community that spans beyond the walls of the university and has demonstrably advanced women’s meaningful participation in computing." We are one of four Beacon schools in the Building Recruiting and Inclusion for Diversity (BRAID) Program, co-led by AnitaB.org and Harvey Mudd College — model institutions that have been successful at increasing the diversity of their undergraduate computing programs.

We also have made great strides in our effort to recruit and support women faculty members. For example, in the past 6 years (from the 2012-13 year to the 2019-20 year) we have grown by 28 faculty members (23 tenure-track and 5 lecturer), of whom 14 have been women (12 tenure-track and 2 lecturer), including rising stars in computer vision, robotics, privacy and security, machine learning, natural language processing, human-computer interaction, and programming languages and software engineering.

Nonetheless, we know that women in computing continue to endure experiences that challenge their place and success in our field. We work actively to counter such experiences, both in the Allen School and more broadly, while acknowledging that we have more work to do. We are proud of the women in our community who give voice to these challenges and shine a light on where more progress is needed. This September 2018 Seattle Times feature is a particularly remarkable collection of perspectives from six members of our community. See also former Allen School Director Hank Levy's statements reaffirming our commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Empowering People with Disabilities

The Allen School actively works to increase access to CS education and careers for people with disabilities. The AccessComputing Alliance enables students with disabilities to pursue computer science degrees by providing guidance, resources, mentoring opportunities, and funding. The Alliance assists higher education institutions and employers to develop inclusive programs and follow best practices in recruiting and supporting students with disabilities. Allen School professor Richard Ladner has led our efforts, and has received numerous awards in recognition of his leadership on accessibility, including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

A significant expansion of this effort has recently taken place with the launching of the University of Washington Center for Research and Education on Accessible Technology and Experiences (CREATE), led by an interdisciplinary team whose mission is to make technology accessible and to make the world accessible through technology.

We are proud to align our culture with the University of Washington's diversity statement and commitment to accessibility:

The University of Washington reaffirms its policy of equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability, or status as a disabled veteran or Vietnam era veteran in accordance with University policy and applicable federal and state statutes and regulations. The University of Washington is committed to providing access and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, education and employment for individuals with disabilities.

Increasing Our Focus on Other Underrepresented Groups

In recent years we in the Allen School have significantly increased our focus on other under-represented groups at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

In 2016 the Hopper-Dean Foundation challenged us to extend our long-standing focus on women at the undergraduate level to groups such as economically disadvantaged and underrepresented minority students. The Hopper-Dean Foundation Collaboration (HDFC) originally involved the University of Washington, Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, MIT, and Stanford. In 2019 Cornell, Georgia Tech, and Howard University joined in a second phase of the collaboration (and Stanford was dropped). One key element of our commitment has been extensive involvement with the STARS Engineering Scholars program. We have also transitioned our K-12 outreach programs from "broad and shallow" to "narrow and deep," launching significant engagements with schools such as TAF@Saghalie that have a high proportion of students from populations that we particularly seek to serve. Similarly, we have transitioned our K-12 summer programs to the Othello-UW Commons in southeast Seattle, home of the population we seek to serve. Our undergraduate CSE Ambassadors are heavily engaged in these and other outreach efforts.

At the graduate level, in 2017 the Allen School and ten other top computer science graduate programs formed the FLIP (Diversifying Future Leadership In the Professoriate) Alliance, which brings together the small number of graduate programs responsible for producing the majority of the computer science professoriate with individuals and organizations that understand how to recruit, retain, and develop students from underrepresented groups, with the goal of creating a network that can change the demographic diversity of the professoriate in the field. Participation in the FLIP Alliance has stimulated a significant broadening of our focus in recruiting graduate students.

We have a long way to go with these efforts, but we are deeply committed to achieving success.

And we have had no success at the faculty level. This will be an intensive area of focus for us going forward.

Staffing

There is wide engagement in these efforts by faculty, staff, and students. Focused attention is imperative, though, and we have taken a number of steps recently to ensure that this exists:

  • Professor Jennifer Mankoff has been appointed to the new position of Associate Director of the Paul G. Allen School for Diversity & Inclusion.
  • Professors Dan Grossman and Ed Lazowska are co-faculty leads for undergraduate and graduate program diversity. Lazowska serves as the faculty advocate for the undergraduate Hopper-Dean Foundation Collaboration and for the graduate FLIP Alliance. Grossman serves as the faculty liaison to our undergraduate Student Advisory Council and to our graduate Grad, VGrad, & Postdoc Advisory Council (G5PAC).
  • Director of Graduate Student Services Elise Dorough is extensively involved in FLIP Alliance activities, and in all other aspects of our graduate program.
  • Les Sessoms serves as the Allen School's Recruitment and Retention Specialist for the graduate program, extensively involved in FLIP Alliance activities.
  • Chloe Dolese Mandeville is the Allen School's Program Manager for Diversity & Access, a new position focused on undergraduate diversity, access and inclusion; she is heavily involved in the Hopper-Dean Foundation Collaboration.
  • Leslie Ikeda is a newly-appointed Retention Specialist for our undergraduate program, working to ensure that the Allen School fulfills its commitment to the success of all students.
  • Jan Cuny, who for the past 15 years led the Broadening Participation programs in the Computing and Information Science and Engineering Directorate of the National Science Foundation, is with us 20% doing assessment of our undergraduate diversity, inclusion and equity efforts.
  • Professor Lauren Bricker works extensively in on-ramp courses for our STARS students and our community college transfer students.
  • Dave Rispoli serves as Postdoc Facilitator, ensuring that we take the same departmental responsibility for postdocs that we do for undergraduate and graduate students.
  • Our Diversity Committee is responsible for a broad range of activities that positively impacts the climate the Allen School. Our undergraduate Student Advisory Committee and our graduate Grad, VGrad, & Postdoc Advisory Council (G5PAC) are similarly engaged in issues of climate.