As an institution, Saint Louis University has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. Within the Department of Computer Science, we echo those goals while recognizing the particular need to broaden participation in computing, in our department, in our classes, and in the computing profession and society. We recognize not only the imperative of valuing diversity and inclusiveness, but that all members of our community (faculty, staff, and students) must be active participants in supporting and advocating for these goals.
The challenges in building and supporting diversity in the field of computing are well established. While there has been strong progress in recent years (both locally and nationally), there is certainly need for much greater progress in the future. Our goal of inclusiveness takes many forms:
- We strive for academic diversity as we see computer science providing value and empowerment to students in all majors (not just those majoring in computer science). One way we support this goal is by providing an innovative set of introductory courses that demonstrate the use of computing in a variety of domains, while doing so without any prerequisite requirements for enrollment. Another is by having our computer science majors participate in capstone projects, many of which apply the techniques of computer science to advance interdisciplinary projects.
- We strive for demographic diversity in our student body, our faculty, and the field of computing in general. This includes diversity of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and identity, and socioeconomic background. Active steps we can take can foster a strong sense of community on campus, for example, through programs such as the McNairs Scholars to support first-generation college students. We can also contribute to the pipeline of a new generation of computer scientists through outreach to the community, most notably with our presence within the diverse city of St. Louis. For example, Globalhack VI, held at SLU's Chaifetz Arena in 2016, had a focus on use of technology to provide solutions surrounding homelessness, and Globalhack VII in 2018 focused on supporting foreign-born individuals and communities.
- We strive for inclusiveness in terms of ability and disability. We also recognize that as computer scientists we have the ability to contribute to the development of assistive technologies that can greatly enable individuals. These might include voice controls, screen readers, prosthetics, navigation, software to improve organization, and wearable devices with smart monitoring. Here at SLU, computer science students and faculty have worked with Dr. Jenna Gorlewicz, a Mechanical Engineer whose specialty is the use of haptic devices and human-machine interactions.