The Institute of Diversity Sciences (IDS) at UMass Amherst, directed by Nilanjana Buju Dasgupta (psychology) was awarded a two-year $499,359 grant from Reboot Representation to support the IDS Leadership Academy for students from groups traditionally marginalized in tech & engineering.
Executive Director of Reboot, Dwana Franklin-Davis (pictured) expressed that “At Reboot, we’ve learned that targeted and tailored support for Black, Latina, and Native American women can open the door to tech careers and to leadership, impact, and power. We’re excited to partner with UMass Amherst and the Institute of Diversity Sciences to support students transitioning into tech careers through leadership training, mentorship, and professional development.”
The IDS Leadership Academy is a year-long virtual and interactive program that creates a supportive cohort where students develop strong relationships with peers and mentors from similar backgrounds who are forging pathways in tech and engineering. The program consists of three components: (1) a six-week synchronous online summer program; (2) a speaker series; and (3) an industry mentorship program during the academic year.
The summer 6-week online course is a fast-paced 15 -20 hours/week program – an accelerator for students planning their journeys to thrive in the tech and engineering sectors. Students learn about, and gain experience in, navigating the culture of professional workplaces through a curriculum designed Dr. Rati Thanawala, who spearheaded this course for her non-profit, Leadership Academy for Women of Color in Tech Inc. Students also participate in an intensive negotiation clinic run by Harvard Kennedy School’s Co-Director of the Center for Public Leadership and the Women and Public Policy Program, Dr. Hannah Riley Bowles. By developing these skills within a cohort of their peers from similar backgrounds, students gain a sense of belonging in tech and engineering. Helping with this sense of belonging is a weekly speaker series provides the opportunity for students to interact with and learn from a variety of experienced professionals, themselves from diverse backgrounds. In an academic-year mentorship program, students deepen their relationships to a few mentors, who act as continued guides, coaches and connectors to internships, jobs, and other related opportunities as they transition from college to careers.
In the past 2 years, student participants in the LA came from 27 colleges and universities across the nation. The program is free for students and they receive need-based stipends in the summer so that they can participate without needing a summer job. Because the Leadership Academy is virtual, IDS pays special attention to digital inclusion and student needs for high-speed internet and other equipment. In 2022, the course will begin on July 11 and run through Aug. 19.
The program has shown promising results, according to Professor of psychology and Director of IDS, Nilanjana Buju Dasgupta, who leads the program evaluation team. Leadership Academy participants report a significantly stronger sense of belonging in CS and engineering majors. They feel significantly more confident and motivated, and less anxious about pursuing careers in tech and engineering fields. They approach professional situations with a growth mindset and look for opportunities to practice public speaking, communication, and negotiation skills more than do the controls. These are all indications that these students will start their early careers in a strong position, equipped to move into leadership positions quickly.
Hear testimonials from students from our 2021 Leadership Academy in this 3 minute video below. Also, don't forget to apply for the professional development opportunity--with full scholarships available--by May 1st here!
The Institute of Diversity Sciences’ (IDS) mission is to use STEM to advance social justice. IDS does this by cultivating a multidisciplinary STEM learning community that breaks down disciplinary silos, brokers research collaborations, and creates mentored research opportunities for students. As part of its mission, IDS also attracts and supports diverse students in STEM pathways, who are attracted to IDS in large numbers because of its equity-focused research. IDS programs promotes the success of these students through professional development programs, including the Leadership Academy. The impact of these programs move beyond UMass through an NSF-funded state-wide research-practitioner network of universities, community colleges, high schools, and businesses to increase underrepresented students’ access to, and success in, technology and engineering educational and career pathways. For more information, see www.umass.edu/diversitysciences.
If you are a computer science or engineering student at a U.S. institution and would like to apply for the Leadership Academy Program, see the website: https://www.umass.edu/diversitysciences/leadership-academy