Engaged Faculty Spotlight: The Department of Computer Science

September 12, 2019

Brown’s Computer Science department is expanding its ongoing efforts to weave ethics and social impact throughout its courses, communications, and community programming. The newly announced Responsible CS initiative includes courses focused on ethical issues ("Cybersecurity Ethics;" "Data, Ethics and Society") and the integration of ethics content into five large introductory courses, with plans for increasing the number of courses involved over time. Leadership comes not only from Professor and Department Chair Ugur Çetintemel and his faculty colleagues, but also from students. A pilot cohort of Ethics Teaching Assistants has been working with faculty, staff, and graduate students this summer to develop course content, drawing on multiple academic disciplines. Undergraduate concentrators can engage with “real-world” communities and issues through the Engaged Scholars Program (ESP) and the "CS for Social Change" course in which students – carefully selected and assigned to teams, based on their skills, and supported by Undergraduate TAs – work with non-profit partners to develop new technological products.

Students in CS-ESP make critical thinking and action about social issues and technology a central component of their educational experience, completing multiple engaged courses, a significant practicum and a capstone with demonstrable social benefit. Students involved with Impact Labs also run several co-curricular opportunities and profile CS alumni in Tech for Social Good Spotlights appearing on the department’s blog. To engage younger student – especially girls and youth of color underrepresented in the field – and to evaluate effective ways of teaching particular concepts, Brown CS faculty and staff Kathi FislerShriram Krishnamurthi and Emmanuel Schanzer co-direct the Bootstrap project. One of the largest CS outreach programs in the country, this NSF-funded program provides research-based curricular models and training workshops to teachers, enhancing the education of tens of thousands of students from grades 6-12. These efforts and others contribute to a department that emphasizes social impact and ethical responsibility throughout its education and research missions. Dr. Çetintemel and department Financial and Outreach Coordinator Laura Dobler also welcome new collaborative project ideas and partners from others on campus and beyond.