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October 3, 2019

Research paper presented at the 2019 Connected Learning Summit:
An Asset-Based Approach to CS Equity: Ethnographic Research on Google igniteCS
Setareh Mahmoudi, Mizuko Ito, Kurt Squire
The field of computer science (CS) struggles to expand the representation of women and minorities. To help strengthen a sense of belonging and confidence in their field for these underrepresented groups, Google launched igniteCS, an educational mentorship program run by undergraduate CS students in the US and Canada. This paper presents a qualitative study of iCS which found the program exemplifies an “asset-based” approach that grows out of the unique strengths and interests of URGs. The program’s peer support and leadership opportunities led to significant positive outcomes for undergraduates most at risk of dropping out of CS programs. These positive outcomes included: (1) psychological safety, (2) peer relationships in CS, and (3) identity transformation. The key design features that supported these outcomes included: (1) validating and sponsoring the strengths of youth from URGs, (2) shared and meaningful purpose, (3) supporting student autonomy and initiative, and (4) peer-to-peer and near-peer mentorship.