Developing Solutions to Prepare Students for the 21st Century

Wayne Gersie

A guest editorial by Wayne Gersie, vice president for diversity and inclusion.

In her book, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, Safiya Umoja Noble tackles a continuing challenge that transcends academic disciplines and professions: that search engine results reinforce racism by queuing up websites that engender negative racial stereotypes. Noble is well qualified for this analysis as a professor of gender and African American studies at UCLA, where she was the co-founder of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry. Her publication is specific to the relationship between search engines and discriminatory biases, but it is only one among many problems surrounding technology design and inclusivity that will continue until we confront it in the academy and workforce.

One facet of this issue regards demographic shifts, both domestically and globally, that will require innovative and inclusive thinking to meet market and end-user demands. According to the most recent census data, “the U.S. population is much more multiracial and diverse than what we measured in the past” (Jensen et al., 2021). Further, “The nation is diversifying even more than predicted, according to new census data” (Frey, 2020).

These positive trends are diluted by access inequities related to computing and education. While 53 percent of high schools now offer computer science courses, and 76 percent of high school students overall could take these courses, only 5.6 percent of students enroll in them (Ward, 2022).

Further, demographic disparities persist: young women only constitute 32% of high school computer science courses, two or more races, 4 percent, and Native American/Alaskan and Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander, 1.3 percent.

Also, comparing the overall high school population of various demographic groups to their enrollment in computer science courses, we find economically disadvantaged students at 52 percent to 36 percent, Latinx 27 percent to 20 percent, White 48 percent to 48 percent, Black 15 percent to 16 percent, and Asian 5 percent to 11 percent (Ward, 2022; Tamez-Robledo, 2022). While some progress has occurred, obviously, much work remains.

The downstream impact is revealed in post-secondary education and workforce development. In 1984, women accounted for 37 percent of computer science college graduates, but more recently this percentage has declined to around 20 percent (Cheryan, S. et al., 2022). Not surprisingly, the percentage of women employed in computer science lags behind recent, though modest, gains for women in other STEM fields (Pew Research Center, 2021).

Employment data for diverse racial/ethnic groups follow similar patterns, with the percentage of Black computer scientists typically hovering between 3 percent and 5 percent from 2010-19, Asian increasing from about 15 percent to 20 percent, and Latinx with a small gain from about 3 percent to 5 percent (Zippia, 2022).

As a leader of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Michigan Technological University and our newly minted College of Computing accept the charge to prepare students for the 21st century. We must increase the representation of women and diverse racial/ethnic groups in computer science and ensure that our graduates are not only technically, but also culturally proficient and equity minded to develop solutions for next-generation challenges.

At its core, the College of Computing leverages its expertise to facilitate complex problem-solving that requires imagination and innovation. To the degree that the College can augment its inclusivity profile among all its students, especially among students with diverse backgrounds and lived experiences, it will more successfully achieve its goals.

To achieve these aspirations, we must expedite the integration of diversity, equity, inclusion, and sense of belonging (DEIS) into the fabric of the College and University as not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do. By celebrating diverse perspectives and lived experiences, along with the uniqueness of our community members, we provide everyone with opportunities to thrive and enhance our ability to innovate and conduct transformational research for the betterment of humanity.

Having the privilege of serving as Michigan Tech’s inaugural vice president for diversity and inclusion and the opportunity to partner with the inaugural dean of the College of Computing, Dennis Livesay, along with his team, I am excited about the possibilities for Michigan Tech’s fastest-growing college. Specifically, I look forward to partnering with the College as it develops its strategic plan for DEIS, future K-12 outreach partnerships, and research collaborations with its faculty and academic and business partners.


Cheryan, S., Master, A., Meltzoff, A. (2022, July 27). There are too few women in computer science and engineering. Scientific American.

Frey, W. H. (2020, July 1). The nation is diversifying even faster than predicted, according to new census data. Brookings.

Jensen, E., Jones, N., Rabe, M., Pratt, B., Medina, L., Orozco, K., & Spell, L. (2021, August 12). The chance that two people chosen at random are of different race or ethnicity groups has increased since 2010. United States Census Bureau.

Noble, S. U. (2018). Algorithms of oppression: How search engines reinforce racism. New York University Press.

Pew Research Center. (2021, March 30). Women remain underrepresented in physical sciences, computing and engineering jobs.

Tamez-Robledo, N. (2022, September 26). Computer science is growing in K-12 schools, but access doesn’t equal participation. EdSurge.

Ward, M. (2022, September 27). Numbers don’t lie: Is it time for schools to require computer science? District Administration.

Zippia. (2022, Sep. 9). Computer scientist demographics and statistics in the U.S.

About Wayne Gersie

Prior to joining Michigan Tech, Wayne Gersie served as assistant research professor and chief diversity officer for the Applied Research Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University. He is the founder and principal of Oasis Strategic Consulting LLC.

Gersie earned his PhD in Workforce Education and Development, with an emphasis on human resources, and a MEd in Counselor Education, both from Penn State. He holds certificates from the Harvard University Institute for Management and Leadership Education, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Center for Creative Leadership, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

About the Center for Diversity and Inclusion

The mission of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) at Michigan Tech is to foster student success by providing engaging programs that create safe spaces for students of multiple social and cultural identities. Through a broad range of services, workshops, and events, CDI fosters student success by:

  • Providing a welcoming and safe environment for all students
  • Encouraging cross-cultural interactions and conversations
  • Supporting the exploration of differences as well as similarities
  • Recognizing and celebrating the contributions of historically marginalized populations
  • Facilitating students’ self-exploration and exploration of others’ identities
  • Collaborating on-campus initiatives that support/foster cultural diversity