Dr. Kamau Bobb Talks Leadership and Diversity in STEM and Computer Science Education (Part I)

Dr. Bobb discusses leadership and diversity in STEM and CS education

Dr. Kamau Bobb is not your average academic. For starters, his commitment to quality education extends far beyond the boundaries of the classroom. In fact, you will find him on the highways, byways, and even on the Hill advocating for equity and next practices in access to comprehensive, fundamental education. Even more remarkable is the unmistakable fire in his belly that, once experienced, inspires average citizens to become agents of change.

A dynamic education advocate who makes no bones about increasing diversity across disciplines, Dr. Bobb is also one of our nation’s top STEM education policy analysts, whose body of work is helping to shape a brighter future for education in America. He holds a Ph.D. in science and technology policy from Georgia Tech, and M.S. and B.S. degrees from the University of California, Berkeley.

Currently, Dr. Bobb is a program officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. He is on a rotation from Georgia Tech, where he serves on the faculty in the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC). His role at NSF is to direct and facilitate research in improving computer science (CS) education that will lead to broader participation in the field, particularly of African American and Hispanic students as well as women of all races and ethnicities.

Fascinated by his innovative thinking and approach to realizing diversity in education, we were compelled to interview him and learn more about his work.

BlackEnterprise.com caught up with this academic powerhouse to discuss leadership and diversity in STEM and CS education.

BlackEnterprise.com: You have an impressive background in computer and information science education, STEM, engineering, research, and policy analysis. What are the key arguments for diversity within these fields?

Bobb: I see STEM education and particularly CS education in a broad national context. The primary argument for diversity in the STEM enterprise centers on national economic competitiveness and equitable employment opportunities in a critical industrial sector.

While I am concerned about students’ abilities to get jobs, I am more interested in their contribution to the American story. One of the descriptions of black and Hispanic students is that they live in the margin; that they are disconnected and marginalized from the core national narrative. Living in the margin means that their lives are relegated to footnotes; to edits that are referenced against the main story. I reject that premise. Their lives—our lives—ambitions, pursuits, challenges, and history are central to the American story.

Technology leaders today are not only transforming the conduct of engagement across multiple sectors, they are rewriting the national narrative. There is extraordinary power in that. I am inspired to pursue equity in STEM education as one path out of the margin. In my view, the goal of STEM education work is the acquisition of power and the ability to write the American story.

Karima Mariama-Arthur is Founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, a boutique consulting firm specializing in professional development. Follow her on Twitter @WSRapport.