Collaborative Research: Evolution of the Institute for African Americans in Computing Sciences (IAAMCS)

Young African American man working at desktop

The Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computing Sciences (IAAMCS, pronounced ‘i am cs’) serves as a national resource for all African-American computer science students and faculty. The objective of IAAMCS is to increase the number of African Americans receiving Ph.D. degrees in computing sciences, promote and engage students in teaching and training opportunities, and add more diverse researchers into the advanced technology workforce.

AIR serves as a research partner of the IAAMCS BPC-AE Alliance, collecting and analyzing original quantitative and qualitative data to address the program’s research goals and characterize the state of the African-American computer science student landscape and report on the findings.

In consultation with the IAAMCS leaders, AIR will develop a set of core research questions to better understand the experiences of African-American computer science students, the key components of their alliance model that support these students, and to share effective practices with the field.

Key Findings

  • Social networks are vital sources of academic and nonacademic support, but different types of students leverage these networks in different ways.
  • Increasing faculty and mentors’ capacities around cultural and linguistic competence can help them relate to their mentees’ identities and cultural experiences, helping to counteract their feelings of doubt and imposter syndrome.
  • In the broader context of underrepresentation of Black and African Americans in the computer science space, mentors tend to conceive of their role in broader, more altruistic terms of benefitting society as a whole.