Implications for Advancing Computing & Promoting Resilience

This chapter proposed a new, integrated conceptual framework for computing identity development for Latina undergraduate students. This framework drew upon several established theories in order to conceptualize how these college students experience identity development both at the individual level and within the environment around them. The framework acknowledges the influence of community cultural wealth and funds of identity that Latina students bring with them, as well as the forms of oppression that they may experience. It is our hope that this framework not only advances the field but also contributes to the ways in which we think about resilience for Latina students in computing fields. Developing a computing identity is an act of resilience and persistence despite challenges, as well as an act of resistance against various forms of structural oppression. In presenting this conceptual framework, we recognize the ongoing need for research, theory building, and praxis on computing identity development. First and foremost, we would like to reiterate that despite this model, we continue to acknowledge that we cannot treat Latinas as a monolithic group, as they are diverse (e.g., nationality, citizenship, first-gen status, race) and their experiences are nuanced and different. As such, we encourage others to take this model, use it, and refine it to capture the many nuances that exist among Latinas in computing. It is our hope that scholars, practitioners, policymakers, and other stakeholders will continue to refine our understanding of computing identity development in order to better serve Latina undergraduate students. In the future, scholars might consider longitudinal research studies that enable them to see identity development over time. Researching identity development over time and across critical junctures in the educational journey might further illuminate our understanding of computing identity development. In addition, scholars may see to conduct research studies and build theory across multiple educational contexts (e.g., Hispanic-serving Institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, private elites) and with Latina undergraduate students who possess a variety of identities and backgrounds (e.g., generational status, geography, community college transfer).

Although this chapter centers on the creation of a theoretical model, there are many practical strategies that practitioners can use to promote resilience and encourage Latina students to develop their identities as computer scientists. For example, the model suggests that faculty and staff in computing departments recognize where their underrepresented student populations come from and recognize what students bring to computing (i.e., asset-based community cultural wealth and funds of identity) rather than what they do not bring (e.g., deficit-based pre-college programming experiences). From our emerging research (Rodriguez & Ramirez, 2020), we see that Latina students possess limited knowledge of computing fields and computing identity experiences; however, they draw on a wealth of knowledge from their communities and background experiences to shape their computing identities. Furthermore, they also develop their computing identities through involvement in computing organizations and benefit from attending computing events such as the Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing (e.g., diversity from all backgrounds and ethnicities) or the Grace Hopper Celebration (e.g., gender diversity).

In turn, practitioners might look toward using real-life examples in computing classes that tackle social problems and challenges that people care about, as well as examples showing people from diverse backgrounds (e.g., Latinx population). In addition, practitioners might consider ways (e.g., assignments, first-year experience courses, culminating projects) in which they can encourage students to draw upon the rich experiences that they have had in the past in order to shape their computing identities. Practitioners might also consider ways in which they can support Latina students in connecting to computing organizations with diversity missions, including those mentioned earlier.

In contrast to these practical solutions for computing identity development, we would be remiss if we did not also challenge stakeholders to reconsider typical notions of resilience and their implications on broadening participation in computing. Without a commitment to the dismantling of sexism, racism, and other oppressions, our efforts to enhance computing identity and encourage resilience are futile. Rather than solely focusing on building computing for the purposes of resilience, we must also eliminate the structural oppressions that require resilience in the first place.

Future research and theory-building might also investigate how degree programs, curricula, and delivery influence computing identity. In the present, practitioners and policymakers can utilize what we already know about computing identity development for Latina undergraduate students to shape practice and policy. We can do this by thinking about computing experiences as identity creation experiences and using forms of community cultural wealth and funds of identity to actively engage students in this developmental process. We can also do this by building in mechanisms of identity development throughout the curriculum, internship, and career preparation experiences. Finally, better theory-building hinges on engaging scholars, practitioners, and policymakers in praxis, or the bringing together of research, theory, and practice for a better change process. Together, these groups might look to the conceptual framework presented here to take action on their campuses and engage in a reflective process in which they analyze the results, revise our understanding of computing identity development, and implement further changes to both our theoretical understanding of the process and its practical application.

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