CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT AND RECRUITMENT OF AMERICAN INDIAN MALES INTO COMPUTER SCIENCE THROUGH COMPUTATIONAL LINGUISTICS

The Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) Network received support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to investigate the effects of collaborative technology-enabled, hands-on language research projects on the recruitment into, and retention of, American Indian males in Computer Science or Information Technology (CS/IT) courses and majors. The goal of this TCUP EAGER project is to increase the number of declared computer science majors among American Indian males at the participating institutions while enhancing advancing knowledge of computational linguistics.[1] The project addresses the underrepresentation of American Indian males in STEM courses and careers. The project develops a cohort of students who will likely continue in the CS/IT pipeline to help meet the national need for a competitive STEM workforce.

Through this project, QEM provides training opportunities for student-faculty teams from Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) that have Computer Science or Information Technology and Native Language programs. In February 2017, QEM conducted a two-day information awareness and leadership development workshop during which participating teams discussed ways technology can be used in indigenous languages research. Workshop activities focused on involving, training, and mentoring Native American students in documenting their Native/Tribal languages through the use of technology-enabled, computation-based tools and techniques. Teams networked with peers, discussed their interests/ideas, and decided on technology-focused language projects to undertake upon return to their respective campuses.

During the academic year, project participants will be provided opportunities to take on-line technology courses, attend information-sharing training webinars, and develop/implement language-focused research projects. Participating faculty-student teams will be invited to discuss their research ideas or results, benefits of the QEM EAGER project, and lessons learned at a Spring 2018 follow-up symposium. They also will discuss dissemination, recruitment, and sustainability strategies to expand interest among American Indian males in  CS/IT overall, and computational linguistics, in particular.

[1]  Computational linguistics is “the scientific and engineering discipline concerned with understanding written and spoken language from a computational perspective, and building artifacts that usefully process and produce language, either in bulk or in a dialogue setting” [CSLI, 2009]. Its goals are to create frameworks for the grammar and semantics of languages in such a way that they can be mechanically analyzed via computer. The practical applications of computational linguistics include the retrieval, translation, or summarization of text as well as mechanisms for text-based question answering and task-focused conversation.

For more information on this project, please contact: Laura-Lee Davidson, QEM Associate, ldavidson@qem.org