CSC News

September 27, 2018

Tate Recognized by TBJ as a 2018 Leader in Diversity

Every year, the Triangle Business Journal (TBJ) honors companies and individuals who have shown an exceptional commitment to promoting practices that advance diversity in the workplace and in business leadership.


This year, we are excited to announce that Ken Tate, director of engagement & external relations, was among eight local leaders recognized by the TBJ as one of their 2018 Leaders in Diversity.


Tate was recognized for his leadership efforts over the last decade to work closely with the department’s Strategic Advisory Board, industry partners, College of Engineering Admissions and a variety of department and university resources to develop and deploy a comprehensive outreach strategy designed to increase the attraction of females and under-represented students into the computer science discipline at NC State.


In the spring of 2007, there were just 57 females in the computer science undergrad program at NC State, representing a mere 9.6% of the total CSC undergraduate population.  Flash forward 10 years to the fall of 2017 when the department celebrated its 50th Year, and female CSC undergraduate population had grown more than threefold to 186, representing over 18% of the total undergraduate enrollment. Net growth of females in the undergraduate population is almost 88% over the decade. The department has experienced similar growth in undergraduate Hispanic and Asian American populations over that period.


Humbly accepting the award on behalf of the department, Tate says he will never consider this an individual award. “I feel very honored to have been selected by the Triangle Business Journal for this award,” Tate said, “but I am not deserving of the recognition alone. There were so many others who were involved and played in huge role in the strides we have made to bring more females and diversity into the computer science discipline.”


Ironically, Tate’s passion for outreach was fueled by his failure to recruit his own daughter into the discipline. “Back in 2006, when she was applying to colleges, I tried my best to persuade my daughter to consider a degree in computer science,” said Tate. “She respectfully listened to my pitch for months and finally gave me a firm NO!”


In talking to his daughter, Tate said it was obvious that the images the department used to portray the degree on its ‘Future Students’ page did nothing to dispel the “nerdy, geeky” stereotype the computer science discipline had at the time.


At the same time, Tate said that the department’s ePartners, who provide so much financial support to the department, started expressing serious concerns about the diversity in the undergraduate pipeline. “Businesses exist for one reason,” says Tate, “to make money! And they do this by solving problems with products and solutions that are creative and innovative. Diversity plays a key role in business success. Not just ethnic and gender diversity, but diversity of thought, understanding, and perspective.”


With the financial support from its ePartners, input from its Strategic Advisory Board, and the support of department leadership, Tate led an effort to ‘blow up’ and completely redesign the department’s ‘Future Students’ page with much more focus on diversity and changing the narrative about computer science and its application in improving the human condition.


The campaign greatly expanded the number of potential recruits by looking at students who not only express an interest in software technology, but by identifying students with strong math abilities and an interest in music. They then reached out to more than 10,000 middle and high school math, science and technology teachers, with a graphic-intensive poster campaign to help them better explain what computer scientists do. Alumni doing extremely interesting jobs were identified and featured online in video snippets. A 'Faces of Computer Science' campaign was launched to showcases the diversity of more than a dozen alumni who are making a difference in the world with their degrees.


Tate then launched the Computer Science Student Ambassadors program, believed to be the first such ambassadors program developed on campus by a department. This group of about 30 of the department’s very best undergrads, is extremely diverse group that doesn't mirror the current undergraduate population; rather it mirrors the undergrad population we aspire to be. Under the mentorship and guidance of Tate and Ms. Tammy Coates, the CSC Student Ambassadors amass over 700 volunteer hours supporting about 90 unique events each year as they engage prospective students and their parents, give tours, host Open Houses, provide demos and presentations across the state at middle and high schools, and conduct fun games and other engagements at places like Marbles Museum.


Tate represents the department as an Academic Alliance member of the National Council for Women in Technology (NCWIT). The partnership with NCWIT has led to numerous collaborations including hosting a major ‘Sit With Me’ event sponsored by Eastman Chemical and ‘unconscious bias’ training for faculty and staff. He also has raised significant corporate funds to provide annual scholarships to every female student who has won a regional or national NCWIT Aspirations award.  Tate has served on a Dean appointed committee to increase diversity across a number of targeted disciplines. In addition, he has worked with the department’s Strategic Advisory Board and several key alumni to help launch a diversity-focused endowment, which provides scholarships and programmatic support.


“Something that we have learned in our journey to broaden participation in computer science at NC State is that we cannot simply focus all our attention on attracting and recruiting more diversity into the pipeline,” says Tate. “Equal attention must be given to retention. This has challenged us to take a very hard look at our curriculum, our physical spaces, our networking and support capabilities, and perhaps most important - to look at ourselves as faculty and staff to recognize our own unconscious biases and to make changes that create a diverse-friendly environment.”


According to Tate, the culture and general diversity-related climate within the department has really gotten much stronger over the last decade. We spend a considerable amount of time as faculty and staff focused on our strategic plan, and how we make our department a ‘joyful’ place to excel academically and professionally. Tate says he thinks this unique climate has certainly contributed to the fact that the department is ranked #1 in the nation in the number of tenure-track female faculty among all computer science departments in colleges of engineering.


It takes time, Tate says, but between the comprehensive campaign, the associated programs and initiatives, and the diversity-conscious and supportive culture within the department, the diversity-related results are really gaining momentum.


Over the last 10 years, applications from female students have grown steadily, reaching a 30% year-over-year growth rate recently.  The incoming CSC class for the fall of 2018 alone includes 164 accepted female students, which was up 48% over last year. While we are still awaiting the Fall 2018 enrollment data, the department expects its total female undergraduate population to exceed 20% for the first time since the 1980s.


Dr. Laurie Williams, professor and interim department head, congratulates Tate on the award and his leadership and ongoing efforts that contribute to the department’s focus on diversity. “To hit 20% is just the start. Ken has helped provide the foundation to help us move this number much higher in the future.”


Tate was among eight individuals recognized by the Triangle Business Journal for exceptional leadership and commitment to promoting practices that advance diversity during a special awards ceremony on Thursday, September 27th at the Marriott City Center in downtown Raleigh.


For more info on the award, click here.



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