Understanding Perceptions of Race Among Computer Science Undergraduates (2022-2023)

Computer science (CS) is overwhelmingly dominated by white and Asian, middle- to upper-class, cisgender men. Effects of this lack of diversity are evident in academic and workplace cultures and biased technologies that negatively impact non-dominant identities. 

While numerous efforts to broaden the participation of underrepresented students in computing exist, these approaches prioritize student-focused, deficit-based interventions, such as a lack of resilience and innate ability, instead of preparatory privilege and sense of belonging. These programs fail to address the systemic inequities and inequalities that students face from educators, peers and academic cultures. They also fail to capture how students perceive the impacts of race, racism and white supremacy on their and others’ academic experiences.

This project team created a survey and interview guide to understand the factors influencing CS undergraduate students’ perception and experience of race in university computing departments. Team members administered the survey to 552 computing students in three universities in the U.S. and China. 

Initial results demonstrated that country of origin and gender significantly shape students’ perceptions of race, dominant groups (whites and Asians) perceive themselves as having less advantage in computing compared to other groups’ perceptions of them, and that in general, race is less salient for white students. The team’s paper describing their methods and instrument development was accepted for publication by the American Society for Engineering Education. 


Fall 2022 – Summer 2023 

Team Outputs

What Students Think About Race in CS (2023 Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Virtual Showcase)

Understanding Perceptions of Race Among Computer Science Undergraduates (poster by Jabari Kwesi, Elyse McFalls, Helen Xiao, Fatima Fairfax, Alex Rogers, A. Nicki Washington, Crystal Peoples, Shaundra B. Daily and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, presented at Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Showcase, Duke University, April 19, 2023)

Survey instrument on experiences with and perceptions of race and racism in computing departments 

Interview guide on race, racism, representation and perceptions of race

Manuscript for publication

This Team in the News

Bass Connections Teams Share Research Highlights at 2023 Showcase

See related team, Understanding Undergraduate Computing Student Perceptions of Race (2023-2024). 


Image from HackDuke’s Code for Good 2021, courtesy of HackDuke

Students participating in a hackathon.

Team Leaders

  • Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Arts & Sciences-Sociology
  • Shaundra Daily, Pratt School of Engineering-Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Crystal Peoples, Arts & Sciences-Computer Science
  • Nicki Washington, Arts & Sciences-Computer Science

/graduate Team Members

  • Fatima Fairfax, Sociology-PHD
  • Alexander Rogers, Sociology-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Jabari Kwesi, Computer Science (BS)
  • Elyse McFalls, Statistical Science (BS)
  • Kyndall Payton, Computer Science (AB)
  • Helen Xiao, Computer Science (BS)