The Institute of Diversity Sciences (IDS) at UMass Amherst was recently awarded a two-year $499,359 grant from Reboot Representation to support the IDS Leadership Academy for students from groups traditionally marginalized in tech and engineering. 

The IDS Leadership Academy is a year-long virtual and interactive program, open to students from throughout the U.S., 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: a six-week synchronous online summer program; a speaker series; and an industry mentorship program during the academic year.   

In the past two years, student participants in the Leadership Academy 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 August 19.  

Dwana Franklin-Davis, executive director of Reboot Representation, says 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,” says Franklin-Davis

The program has shown promising results, according to Nilanjana Dasgupta, director of IDS and professor of psychology at UMass Amherst. 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.  

The Institute of Diversity Sciences’ 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 promote the success of these students through professional development programs, including the Leadership Academy. The impact of these programs extend 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