Paper on Retaining Black Computer Science Students Co-Authored by CISE Chair Earns Best Paper Award at RESPECT 2020

A paper titled, “The iAAMCS Ecosystem: Retaining Blacks/African-Americans in CS PhD Programs,” recently earned a best paper award at the 2020 Research on Equity and Sustained Participation in Engineering, Computing, and Technology (RESPECT) Conference. The paper was co-authored by Jeremy A. Magruder Waisome, Ph.D., a lecturer in the Department of Engineering Education, and Juan E. Gilbert, Ph.D., the chair of the Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering.

Dr. Gilbert, who is the Banks Family Preeminence Endowed Professor, and Dr. Waisome, a former CISE postdoctoral associate, also worked on the paper with Jerlando Jackson, Ph.D., from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The paper focuses on the persistent challenge in computer science graduate education: the “lack of representation, retention, and graduation of certain racial and ethnic groups.” The paper goes on to say, “Despite increased enrollment in computer science departments across the United States, the persistence of Black/African-American students remains primarily unchanged since the mid-1990s, particularly at the doctoral degree level.”

The paper references the Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computing Sciences (iAAMCS), a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded grant that Dr. Gilbert is the principal investigator and director of, which “provides a national ecosystem by connecting students and faculty through short and long-term programmatic activities to build community and advance Blacks/African-Americans in computing research.”

The paper presents an analysis of admissions and graduation data of Black/African American computer science Ph.D. students from the CRA Taulbee surveys from 1995 to 2018. The findings suggest that less than 50 percent of the Black/African American students that enter CS Ph.D. programs finish. However, of those Black/African American CS Ph.D. students that have engaged in iAAMCS activities, 86 percent completed their Ph.D.

RESPECT 2020, in its 5th iteration, was an online event intended to serve as a premier venue for peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary research on broadening participation in computing.