The Diversity Science Institute (IDS) recently concluded the third year of the Leadership Academy, a professional development program for students from historically marginalized groups in technology and engineering. This program, which was free for students, lasted six weeks, from July 11 to August 19. Students now begin a nine-month follow-up mentorship program led by technology and engineering professionals.

“What makes Leadership Academy special is that we create an active community of students from across the country who may feel alone in computer science and engineering majors because they are one of the few students in their own identity group in their program,” says Nilanjana Dasgupta, director of IDS and professor of psychology at UMass Amherst. “We bring them together in a space where they are surrounded by a critical mass of peers who share their experiences. We empower them to connect with each other and with mentors and speakers who inspire, advise and open doors to early career opportunities. And we guide them to develop problem-solving skills, communication skills, and a professional identity to navigate the technology and engineering workplaces.

This year, 55 students came from 37 colleges and universities across the country. The 2022 cohort included 78% women; 44% Black/African American and Black Multiracial; 25% Asian American and Multiracial Asian; 22% multiracial Hispanic and Latino; 9% white; 62% first-generation students; 25% LGBTQ students and 5% students with disabled[DM1] . The students received stipends through donations from Reboot Representation, Red Hat, MathWorks, Dell Technologies, Energetiq Technology, and Cornell University. The Leadership Academy itself is funded by a grant from Reboot Representation as part of their campaign to double the number of Black, Latino, and Native American women earning computer science degrees by 2025.

“The scholarship meant I didn’t have to work this summer,” says Felix Daily, a UMass Boston student who attended this year’s Leadership Academy. “It meant I had to participate because I didn’t have to work. Having the summer to devote myself solely to academics has been a huge boon. It was also encouraging to see that there were other people like me, and to be in a space with those kinds of people who are invested in self-improvement and learning – it was lovely .

During the Leadership Academy, students learn skills to thrive in college that they can also apply to launch their early careers. These include problem-solving skills such as negotiation training, communication strategies, professional identity development, and tactical knowledge of workplace norms and expectations of technology and communication. ‘engineering.

“Students see how a growth mindset applied to personal change breaks down barriers during their college years and prepares them for success in internships and early careers,” says Rati Thanawala, who co-directed the teaching program and is the Hannah Riley Bowles Professor of Management, Leadership and Sciences at Harvard Kennedy School. “All of this leads to more self-confidence as they begin their new journey to becoming tech influencers.”

A dose of inspiration came from guest speakers from various industries and diverse identities. Students will develop in-depth mentoring relationships with industry mentors by participating in small mentoring modules throughout the academic year. Mentors will use their work and life experience to guide mentees in applying their courses to personal challenges and help them set goals, develop their professional identity, and build resilience. These relationships allow students to develop their own professional networks and successfully access internships, apprenticeships, and other real-world work experiences.

Part of the program was developed with funding from Pivotal Ventures, a Melinda Gates company.