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By Liz Warren-Pederson

The top-ranked Department of MIS has been awarded a $10,000 grant to launch a program aimed at promoting diversity in the fields of information technology and computer science.

Gondy Leroy.  Photo by Thomas Veneklasen.

Gondy Leroy.
Photo by Thomas Veneklasen.

The grant is an Academic Alliance Seed Fund Award by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). The fund is supported by Microsoft Research.

The UA project, headed by Paulo Goes (department head and Salter Distinguished Professor in Management and Technology) and Gondy Leroy (associate professor of MIS) approaches the challenge of promoting workplace diversity through awareness-building among the next generation of leaders.

“This isn’t just about attracting women to the field,” said Leroy, a longtime member of NCWIT and leader in initiatives to do just that. “It’s about reaching a group that’s been missed so far – future managers and leaders of all backgrounds who need to be equipped to counter the problems and leverage the benefits of diversity as they prepare to join the working world.”

“It’s extremely important that students be exposed as early as possible, and as often as possible, to diversity-related initiatives,” said Goes. “This project will deliver a series of activities that will provide future IT leaders with the awareness to manage and lead a diverse workforce.”

The program is structured to include a learning phase, with guest speakers, and a practical phase, with students applying their knowledge to team challenges proposed by partner corporations Raytheon and Walmart.

“Students who participate in the practical challenge will receive a certificate of completion,” Leroy said. “The team with the most successful solution will be invited to attend a major conference, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.” The 2014 conference is scheduled for October in Phoenix.

“The MIS department will also create a one-credit course for undergraduate and graduate students aimed at providing hands-on experience with diversity-related projects,” said Goes. “This course is a natural extension of our existing course structure, and will be an ongoing option for students so that we can sustain diversity training in the long term.”

Top image of young students studying together by Konstantin Chagrin courtesy Shutterstock.