Better Outcomes for Black Students in Computer Science Through Mentoring

In 2015, MentorNet, Great Minds in Stem, Pollinate, and iAAMCS worked together to amass the experiences of Black students in computing sciences across America. The result was educational content to prepare mentors to partner with Black students and to provide the students themselves the opportunity to hear other people’s stories and add their own. These materials are of high quality and impact, and can provide a good background on the Black experience in STEM fields.

Quote from Jess, grad student, "Not one person encouraged me to come to grad school."

The Challenge

While Black people account for ~13% of the total U.S. population, they account for less than 2% of enrollment in Computer Science Master’s programs, and less than 1.5% of enrollment in PhD programs. The Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computing Sciences (iAAMCS) partnered with Pollinate Networks, Great Minds in STEM, and MentorNet to produce a set of perspective-taking materials for mentors based on the lived experience of recent Black graduates in Computing Sciences. Partially funded by The National Science Foundation, the goal of USES (Using Student Experiences to improve Student experiences), a sub-project of iAAMCS, is to impact advisor perspective-taking by sharing the realities of being underrepresented in a graduate program. 

Great Minds in STEM, MentorNet, Pollinate, iAAMCS logo group.

Pollinate Approach:


Engaged a diverse group of Black students in STEM to capture their lived experiences

Produced one of the first online resources for mentors highlighting undocumented realities

Undocumented Realities module screens.


Feedback from Students

“Sometimes I haven’t known if I was experiencing pushback and roadblocks because of color or because of gender - being Black or being female - but there was definitely a bias. But in undergrad is where I learned this, and picked up the tools that allowed me to survive.”


Grad Student

“The other Black person, a good friend of mine, just graduated. It is inspiring to see people finish. That’s been the best encouragement for me. It’s good to get encouragement, and also someone to help you understand how to navigate the environment you are in.”


Grad Student

“Not one person encouraged me to come to grad school … I had a few profs in undergrad who told me that my work and interests were ‘interesting’ and ‘promising’, but no one ever said, ‘Hey, you should pursue that’.”


Grad Student

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