What We Learned from SIGCSE 2019

Members of the Constellations leadership team and staff attended SIGCSE and RESPECT 2019. L-R, Jeff Forbes, Lien Diaz, Terry Foster, PK Graff, and Kamau Bobb.


SIGCSE convenes the top computer science education researchers and practitioners in the world annually to share the latest pedagogy in the field and bring computer (CS) education innovations directly into the classroom.

The Constellations Center for Equity in Computing at Georgia Tech took on a leading role in the 2019 symposium, as well as its sister conference, Respect 2019, which both aim to advance minority and female participation in CS education.

Below, the Constellations leadership and team members share some insights and key takeaways from SIGCSE 2019.

Kamau Bobb, Senior Director

The sheer size and growing enthusiasm at SIGCSE on its 50th year was a remarkable demonstration of how important computing education is. To be a part of that was thrilling for Constellations and for me personally.

It is clear that the surge of interest in computing is happening coincident with the fracture of American public schools serving so many black and Hispanic kids and poor kids of all colors. As such, the equity goals of the computing community cannot be achieved without meaningful collaboration with the education policy and social justice communities. Our solutions to achieving equity in computer science education will fall short if they’re implemented in a system that is woefully inequitable in all other frames. That form of collaboration is the next frontier.

Lien Diaz, Director of Educational Innovation and Leadership

At RESPECT, I was pleased to see an increased focus on meeting the needs of underrepresented students in CS including students of color and students with disabilities. I was very appreciative of the scheduling of our panel as a plenary, which afforded us a wonderful opportunity to have discourse around whether we are truly addressing equity in CS as deeply as we should be. It’s not easy work. Collaboration and consistency with a lot of perseverance and patience are key.

I was fortunate enough to be on another amazing panel at SIGCSE where we talked about equity in CS and what different organizations are doing to make it a reality. I envision that one day, as a result of all of our collaborative efforts on equity in CS, that we will be attending a reimagined SIGCSE where participants would truly be reflective of the American population. Then I would know our work has made an impact in increasing, broadening, and diversifying participation in CS, and that it has helped to ensure the experiences of underrepresented populations are inclusive, enjoyable, and high quality.

PK Graff, Constellations Fellow

A theme of the conference centered around the steps each attendee or organization is taking to attack a multifaceted problem like equity. It made everything that the Constellations team is doing come full circle and I’m even more excited to launch our online learning platform that will deliver an equitable experience. It was exciting to collaborate and converse with so many other people who are passionate about equity in computing, and see how they are working to achieve equity in the classroom.

Allie McFadden, Communications Officer

Lien Diaz made a comment that ended up blowing up on Twitter that really stuck out to me. She said, “We are not teaching computer science just so we can create more software developers. We need our politicians, lawyers, and other professions and leaders to understand computer science.”

This resonated with me because as someone who does not have a computer science background, I was raised to associate computer science with all of the typical CS stereotypes. Working in this world has opened my eyes to how computer science can and is used in every facet of life. I think it’s important to keep breaking the stereotype that computer science is just for people to develop apps. I was happy to see that the idea that computer science is for everyone, especially those who are in the position to create policies and make a change, was a hot topic of conversation at SIGCSE.

Constellations serves as a hub and national leader for research and advocacy at the intersection of educational equity and computing. The center was created with a mission to ensure that all students—especially students of color, women, and others underserved in K-12 and post-secondary institutions—have access to quality computer science education, a fundamental life skill in the 21st century.


Allie McFadden

Communications Officer