The INcreasing Student Participation In REsearch Development Program is designed to increase the participation of women and minorities in computing. The program targets female and minority computer science (CS) undergraduate students, but also includes some outreach components for middle and high school students. The goal is to demonstrate that engaging underrepresented students in the INSPIRED program can
- retain more of these students;
- help transition them into advanced study in computer science or computing careers; and
- attract more females and minorities to the field.
INSPIRED strategies include:
- Engage INSPIRED students in an enriched research plan with tutoring, mentoring, peer support, and pair programming;
- Use institutional relationships within and outside of Lamar to help students bridge to the next level;
- Dispel misconceptions about computer science that discourage participation of women and minorities; and
- Engage INSPIRED students in outreach programs for underrepresented middle and high school students.
INSPIRED students are paid to perform research and participate in mentoring and outreach functions for an average of fifteen hours per week. They work in teams under the direction of Computer Science faculty members who serve as mentors and role models. The teams include students from all levels, freshmen through seniors. Graduate students help lead the research teams. The higher-level students help to train and mentor the lower-level students. The students can earn research credit hours for their work. Bridging support activities include Career Counseling and Graduate Study Seminars. Participation in Computer Science conferences, CS Research Seminars and CS Careers Forums exposes students to the richness, breadth, and many beneficial applications of Computer Science and dispels the misconception that CS is by nature a narrow, non-inclusive endeavor. INSPIRED students play an active role in summer robotics camps for underrepresented middle and high school students and other recruiting programs, thus inspiring others to engage in Computer Science. Lessons learned via evaluation of the program and its methods are continually used to improve it and are shared with others so that they can benefit from our experience.
INSPIRED builds upon the Women in Research Development Program (WIRED), which was recognized as a Best Practice in retention of female Computer Science students in Texas [link to the proceedings]. INSPIRED students apply concepts they learn in class to their research, and their research is in turn incorporated into relevant classes. INSPIRED demonstrates that this type of enriched research program can increase participation of minorities as well as women in Computer Science, help retain and transition students to advanced study or careers in CS, and develop them into the mentors, leaders and inspirers of others.
The program helps prepare new computer scientists for participation in the global workforce by having them work in teams that are very diverse, including both men and women from different ethnic backgrounds. It enhances Lamar's infrastructure for research and education by providing for a dedicated research lab that will be used for INSPIRED research and related classes. It benefits society by enabling women and minorities to attain fulfilling careers in computer science, which in turn strengthens the discipline by the infusion of their diverse ideas and perspectives.
Professor Peggy Doerschuk is the founder and director of the INSPIRED Program. Dr. Doerschuk has led students in research in artificial intelligence and robotics for over fifteen years. She has published 35 papers on artificial intelligence, robotics, education, and research and mentoring programs for undergraduates.