Hopper-Dean Foundation gift of $2M bolsters EECS diversity initiatives

Two freshmen students hudding around a laptop screen laughing.
CS KickStart students share project demos (Adam Lau/Berkeley Engineering)
Advising staff answer student questions during CS KickStart, a free, week-long program for incoming freshman, female-identifying and non-binary students interested in computer science, at UC Berkeley’s Sutardja Dai Hall in Berkeley, Calif. on Aug. 14, 2019. CS KickStart gives participants the opportunity to live in dorms, tour tech companies, learn coding and design, and seeks to connect a community of women in a male-dominated field. (Photo by Adam Lau/Berkeley Engineering)

The Hopper-Dean Foundation has awarded $2 million over two years to UC Berkeley’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) in support of diversity initiatives in computer science. The new funds build upon a generous $1 million gift from the foundation in 2016, which included support of pilot diversity programs developed in the department.

“It is a thrill to once again be able to work with the Hopper-Dean Foundation,” said Jeff Bokor, chair of the EECS Department. “We are extremely grateful for the Foundation’s substantially increased support this year. We have been working hard on all of our diversity and outreach programs over the years, and this grant is a forceful acknowledgement that we’ve been moving in the right direction.”

EECS Chair Jeff Bokor addesses the CS Scholars in the Wozniak Lounge, Soda Hall

Bokor and John Canny, chair of the Computer Science Division, credit the initial Hopper-Dean Foundation gift with the department’s progress in addressing the underrepresentation of women and minority students.

Berkeley’s computer science population has seen marked change in this area. In the last two years, the number of graduating women in CS and EECS majors has increased by 47%, and students from underrepresented minority backgrounds has increased by 43%. The introductory course for computer science majors, CS 61A, experienced a 52% increase in women over the last four years, and now  enrolls 1,145 women out of 2,774 students. An introductory course geared toward potential CS majors, the “Beauty and Joy of Computing,” regularly boasts more than 50% enrollment of women.

Even more significant improvement in diversity has been seen at the graduate level. In fall 2011, only 81 women were enrolled in EECS graduate programs, representing a mere 14.5% of all our graduate students. Since then, the number of female students enrolled has more than doubled, and women now represent 22.5% of our graduate student population.

We see similar changes in our underrepresented minority graduate population. For example, in fall 2011, we enrolled only 27 underrepresented minority graduate students. This number has grown to 41 students for fall 2018, for an increase of more than 50%. Challenges in this area remain, but we believe that with the assistance of the Hopper-Dean Foundation, we can build on our momentum to change the demographics of the next generation of computer scientists.

Bokor and Canny anticipate that the department’s efforts to increase diversity in computer science will benefit thousands of middle school and high school students nationwide, as well as undergraduate and graduate students at UC Berkeley. “UC Berkeley EECS is by far the largest supplier of top-tier talent to the US IT industry,” said Canny. “Last year we granted more than 1,280 undergraduate degrees across electrical engineering, computer science and data science majors. We expect that the strides we make in diversity, equity and inclusion will reverberate beyond the department and the college and gradually influence industry.”

The new gift from the Hopper-Dean Foundation will fund a comprehensive suite of programs that support students throughout their careers. Initiatives supported with this grant include:

The Beauty and Joy of Computing (BJC) [middle school and high school students] is an Advanced Placement (AP) CS Principles high school course based on our popular CS introductory to CS course for non-majors. It serves as the flagship departmental high school diversity-in-CS outreach effort. The team aspires to develop a middle school curriculum that inspires and prepares students to pursue computer science in high school, and it includes plans to translate the BJC curriculum into Spanish while providing professional development to computer science teachers in school districts with large Latinx populations.

BJC Teachers

CS Kickstart [1st year undergraduates] is a one-week introductory seminar that brings incoming first-year undergraduate women interested in CS to campus one week early. The program serves as a first exposure to CS while creating a community for women who go on to take computer science courses together. This gift from the Hopper-Dean Foundation will allow us to expand the CS Kickstart program and increase the total number of participants.

Students share project demos during CS KickStart, a free, week-long program for incoming freshman, female-identifying and non-binary students interested in computer science, at UC Berkeley’s Soda Hall in Berkeley, Calif. on Aug. 14, 2019. CS KickStart gives participants the opportunity to live in dorms, tour tech companies, learn coding and design, and seeks to connect a community of women in a male-dominated field. (Photo by Adam Lau/Berkeley Engineering)

CS Mentors (CSM) [1st and 2nd year undergraduates] is a large-scale near-peer tutoring program that provides free, weekly hour-long small-group tutoring sessions to students in computer science major courses. CSM served 1,500 students each week in fall 2018, and nearly one-third of the students enrolled in our CS intro course for majors also chose to join CSM. This gift from the Hopper-Dean Foundation will allow CSM to expand and serve students in lower-division courses.

The Computer Science Mentors

CS Scholars [1st and 2nd year undergraduates] is a cohort program for Berkeley students with little to no background in coding who also identify as first-generation college students, low income or are otherwise socioeconomically disadvantaged. Students take their first several CS courses in cohort labs and discussions with additional resources such as weekly seminars and review sessions. Funds will be used to scale up to support the increasing number of low-income and underserved students who enroll in our introductory course sequence.

EECS Prof. and Dean of Berkeley Engineering, Tsu-Jae King Liu (right), addresses the CS Scholars at the 2018 kick-off party. CS Prof. John DeNero is on the left.

EECS Graduate Fellows [1st year graduate students] is a new program that seeks to improve retention for first-year Ph.D. students who are eligible to receive a Chancellor’s Fellowship. This program will bring 15 highly qualified new Ph.D. students with diverse backgrounds to campus 4 to 10 weeks before the start of the semester to engage in research with a faculty member. Students will be paired with mentors who will help to solidify their academic preparation and provide one-on-one tutoring to prepare for the Departmental Preliminary Exam, a major milestone administered after the first year.

Teaching at Scale [2nd and 3rd year undergraduates] is a new course about adaptive teaching methods in computer science for undergraduates interested in tutoring their peers or serving as teaching assistants. We aim to expand the course with the expectation that better-informed tutors and teaching assistants would lead to a healthier and more equitable learning environment for students in our courses, as well as a department culture that is more welcoming and supportive to underrepresented groups.

Transfer-To-Excellence (TTE) [community college students] is a summer research experience program to support California community college students who are considering transferring to the University of California system. The program brings students to work in a research lab at Berkeley over the summer with the goal to inspire and encourage them to ultimately complete bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering. We seek to expand the program to include a cohort of community college students pursuing computer science degrees.

A TTE student working on a project

“I’d like to acknowledge all the staff, faculty, student instructors and volunteers that put their energy behind our programs,” said Canny. “The programs contribute a great deal to the campus experience and toward making Berkeley a more inclusive, welcoming, open and diverse community.”

TTE students in their cleanroom coveralls

Special thanks to Jeffrey Bokor, John Canny, John DeNero, Dan Garcia, Antoine Davis, Christopher Hunn, Sarah Yang, Audrey Sillers, Nicole McIntyre and Josephine Williamson.