CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT AND RECRUITMENT OF AMERICAN INDIAN MALES INTO COMPUTER SCIENCE THROUGH COMPUTATIONAL LINGUISTICS
The Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) Network has received two years of support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to investigate the effects of collaborative computational linguistics hands-on research projects on the recruitment into, and retention of, American Indian males in Computer Science or Information Technology (CS/IT). The goal of the project is to increase the number of declared computer science majors among American Indian males at the participating institutions while enhancing the understanding of computational linguistics.
The project addresses the underrepresentation of American Indian males in STEM. Project activities will provide a basis for students to pursue projects of wider concern, including preservation of a number of endangered Native languages. The project also will create a cohort of students who will continue in the CS/IT pipeline and help the Nation meet its continuing needs for a competitive STEM workforce.
QEM will recruit five-person teams (one CS/IT faculty member and four American Indian male CS/IT students) from six Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) that have existing Computer Science or Information Technology programs. In Fall 2017, QEM will conduct a two-day training and leadership development workshop during which participating teams will learn ways computational linguistics can be applied to indigenous languages. At the workshop, teams will decide on projects to undertake upon return to their respective campuses.
To increase collaboration during the academic year, the cohort of schools will include pairs of TCUs whose original, indigenous language is one of three: the Algonquian language family, the Navajo language, or the Sioux language. Participating teams will share their research results, project benefits, and lessons learned at a Fall 2018 follow-up workshop, where they also will discuss dissemination, recruitment, and sustainability strategies to expand interest among American Indian males in computational linguistics and CS/IT overall.
In QEM’s 2010 Workshop on the Recruitment and Retention of Native American Male Students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), participating TCUs identified the need for culturally-relevant curricula, opportunities for early leadership experiences, peer networks, and mentorship in supporting male students. The Project plan addresses each of these needs by examining whether culturally-focused computational linguistics, team-based, projects can increase interest and persistence in computer science as well as leadership in STEM among American Indian male students. QEM brings long-established relationships with TCUs through the provision of student research experiences and faculty leadership development opportunities, and will communicate findings from this project to appropriate stakeholders using various dissemination activities.
 Computational linguistics is “the scientific and engineering discipline concerned with understanding written and spoken language from a computational perspective, and building artifacts that
usefully process and produce language, either in bulk or in a dialogue setting” [CSLI, 2009]. Its goals are to create frameworks for the grammar and semantics of languages in such a way that they
can be mechanically analyzed via computer. The practical applications of computational linguistics include the retrieval, translation, or summarization of text; mechanisms for text-based question answering and task-oriented dialogue; and automated discovery of the topic or characterization of the sentiment of a given text.