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Equity & Justice in Computing: Tiffani Williams, "The Lives of Hidden Figures Matter in CS Education"

Event Type
Illinois Computer Science
Apr 20, 2022   3:30 pm  
Originating Calendar
Computer Science Equity and Justice in Computing Conversations

Link to Talk Video:

Abstract: The grand challenge of broadening participation in computing is to engage the world's tech talent in solving diversity, equity, and inclusion problems at scale. If we want to broaden participation, we must educate our students based on the early 17th-century origins of the word "computer," a human who performs calculations. Today, we often abstract the human away from computing. As educators, we have a responsibility not to perpetuate the inequities of the past. Every student deserves a chance to see themselves in computing irrespective of demographics, interests, or socioeconomic status. Students must see human computing stories that they can connect to, identify with, or look up to. 

Based on my recent CACM essay (, we will show that hidden figures must be celebrated and not forgotten as they hold the key to revolutionizing CS education and diversifying computing. By sharing the untold stories of computing, we will return to computers that serve the people, energize us to dismantle exclusionary practices, and humanize participation in computing for all.

Bio: Tiffani L. Williams is a Teaching Professor and Director of Onramp Programs in the Department of Computer Science, and a Dean’s Fellow in Inclusion, Belonging, and Engagement in the Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. From 2017 to 2020, she was the Director of Computer Science Programs and Professor of the Practice at Northeastern University-Charlotte. From 2005 to 2017, she was a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University. 

Her awards and honors include a McKnight Doctoral Fellowship, an Alfred P. Sloan Postdoctoral Fellowship, an Edward, Frances, and Shirley Daniels Fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, a Denice Denton Emerging Leader ABIE award, and a PopTech Science Fellow award. Williams has been recognized for teaching excellence at Texas A&M with Undergraduate and Graduate Faculty Teaching Excellence awards and the Distinguished Award in Teaching by the Association of Former Students. At Illinois, she has been recognized as a Teacher Ranked as Excellent by their Students. 

Her research interests include computer science education, computational biology, and inclusive science communication.

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