The University of Massachusetts Amherst

REBLS Network

Picture of research team
REBLS Network Leaders, from left: Laura Haas (Dean, College of Information and Computer Sciences, UMass Amherst); Ping Chen (Associate Professor, College of Computer Science & Engineering, UMass Boston), Nilanjana "Buju" Dasgupta (Psychological & Brain Sciences, UMass Amherst); Ray Laoulache (Associate Dean, College of Engineering, UMass Dartmouth); Fred Martin (Associate Dean, Kennedy College of Sciences, UMass Lowell)

For years, science and engineering educators, social scientists, industry leaders and policymakers in Massachusetts have struggled to expand and diversify the STEM workforce, each coming at the problem from different disciplinary and institutional perspectives.

With a three-year, $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, our team (pictured above) is bringing together leaders across the Commonwealth to break down these silos and build a multi-institutional partnership. This research-practice partnership is connecting educators who teach computer science and engineering to social scientists who study barriers facing students and their solutions, for example. We are also reaching out to education staff who provide out-of-class support, outreach organizations offering out-of-school learning opportunities, and industry partners who hire and develop talent in technology and engineering. And we are working with stakeholders from high schools and community colleges across the state, the MIT Office of Engineering Outreach Programs, Boston Museum of Science, Girls, Inc. of the Valley, and several technology and engineering industry partners. Students themselves will play an active role in the network and their experiences will inform the learning community. They will have access to mentoring opportunities to develop professional networks in industry and academia, to get career advice navigating obstacles and to develop ideas for independent projects, master’s theses or dissertations. So far, we have 140 members from 60 organizations. See a list of our affiliates below.

A key focus for our activities is to:

  • identify effective solutions that help students thrive as they transition from high school to higher education in technology or engineering, or from higher education to the workforce in these fields
  • replicate and scale successful solutions across institutions
  • facilitate new collaborations between practitioners and researchers that tackle knowledge gaps in computer science and engineering education, outreach, and workforce development

Already, our network has spurred 7 working groups, which you can read about below!

Our hope is that this state-wide network project, which we have dubbed REBLS for Research, Educator, Business Leaders, and Students network, will serve as a model for states across the nation. Our goal is to create an open and vibrant network that brings us out of our silos. We welcome new people into our network who are passionate about increasing access and opportunity for underrepresented students in computer science and engineering fields. If this describes you, come join us!

If you are a researcher, educator, business leader or student interested in joining this network, please contact us!


Working Group 1:  Career summit

This career summit is envisioned to bring students from multiple schools and professionals from multiple companies together participating in order to diversify recruitment in tech and engineering careers. Ideas for the summit include some career skill building, such as resume production/review, mock interviewing. This group is currently sharing ideas and models from other organizations that bring students and industry together.

Facilitators:

Greg Denon, Associate Dean of Career Development, UMass Lowell
Lizzie Habermehl, Campus Recruiter of College Programs, Mathworks


Working Group 2: Industry mentorship program

This group is working on ideas for an industry mentoring program for undergraduate students to diversify recruitment in tech and engineering careers.  Early steps in the planning include surveying students and industry partners to understand what students would want from an industry mentor or mentoring cohort, and what industry would be interested and motivated to provide

Facilitators: 

Rupal Trivedi, Manager; Software Engineering, IDEMIA
Pracheta Amaranath, Graduate Student of Computer Science, UMass Amherst


Working Group 3: Connecting K-12 teachers to industry 

Teachers and schools want to connect with industry professionals and industry people are similarly interested in K-12 outreach. The problem is how to find one another. This group is working on creating an online platform preferred by, and comfortable for, teachers and industry professionals where they could make connections and increase accessibility to one another (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook).

Facilitators:

Bridget Burger, Director of the Cape Cod Regional STEM Network Ecosystem
Pallika Kanani, Consulting Member of Technical Staff, Oracle Labs        
Andreina Parisi-Amon, Director of Partnerships, Mass STEM Hub         


Working Group 4: Leadership academy 

This group is creating and running a program for undergraduate students during the summer of 2020 when many internships and leadership opportunities were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Leadership Academy is designed to help advance undergraduate women and underrepresented minority students in tech and engineering. During the 5-week program, students will develop professional skills needed to be successful in the workplace and learn from experienced professionals from diverse backgrounds and industries.

Facilitators:

Nilanjana Buju Dasgupta, Distinguished Professor of Psychology; REBLS, PI
Rati Thanawala, Advanced Leadership Fellow; Technology Executive, Harvard University

To learn more see: https://www.reblsleadershipacademy.com/


Working Group 5: Access to K-12 CS & engineering education

This group is identifying state-level data about computer science enrollment in high schools, 2-year, and 4-year institutions as well as successful completion of CS programs.  In addition, this group is learning about research on the use of gendered language in computer science and its impact on girls and women, and best practices to overcome such subtle language bias and get girls and women more engaged

Facilitator: Eboney Hearn, Executive Director of Office of Engineering Outreach Programs, MIT; REBLS Steering Committee member


Working Group 6: Designing engaging high school courses in computer science and engineering

Group members are sharing their experiences in their districts in CS courses, engineering and math courses, about barriers to offer those courses; AP exam access to underrepresented groups; course access to girls; course access to students with special needs, and standardization of CS education in high schools, as well as success stories and experiences, and hands-on engagement.

Facilitator:

Ray Laoulache, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs & Professor of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering at UMass Dartmouth; Co-PI, REBLS.


Working Group 7: Transitions - community college to 4-year institution

This group will discuss ways to improve outcomes for bachelor's completion students (aka, transfer students), and increase dual-enrollment offerings between high schools and 2-and 4-year postsecondary institutions. Our goal is to gather ideas for effective practices that we can explore implementing at our own institutions.

Facilitators:  

Fred Martin, Professor of Computer Science; Associate Dean for Student Success, Kennedy College of Science, UMass Lowell; Co-PI REBLS
Kimberly Griffith, College Access Advisor at Bristol Community College
Jay Termini, Department Chair Computer & Information Science at Northern Essex Community College
Steven Fernandez, Engineering Engagement Specialist, UMass Amherst Coillege of Engineering