ECEP Shows Up for RESPECT 2020

Monday, April 27, 2020

RESPECT 2020, the 5th international conference on Research in Equity and Sustained Participation in Engineering, Computing, and Technology was held virtually on Wednesday, March 11th. Making a quick transition from the planned in-person format to a virtual format, we applaud the leadership taken in these unprecedented times by the organizing committee, and especially the general chairs Christina Gardner-McCune (UF) and Nicki Washington (Winthrop). This year’s theme was “Learning from the past. Building for the future.” In retrospect, it was probably not intended to reference the massive effort that it would take to flip the entire conference in less than 72 hours. However, an extended team of approximately 30 people did just that, building on what they knew from past experiences to quickly create an entirely online conference. It was such a success that RESPECT may move to an online format, or at least a hybrid one, in the future. 

RESPECT is intended to serve as a premier venue for peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary research on broadening participation in computing (BPC). Annually, the conference attracts approximately 200 researchers and practitioners from across the US. Attendees have the opportunity to select from a series of tracks consisting of experience papers, research papers, panels, poster sessions, and lightning talks. Learning that the RESPECT organizing committee was considering a rapid switch to a virtual conference, ECEP leaders Sarah Dunton, Anne Leftwich, and Ryan Torbey volunteered to bring their experience hosting virtual meetings to the effort. Over the course of 48 hours, the ECEP team worked alongside a team of committed volunteers to build out a conference agenda that would honor the original schedule, account for presenters and attendees logging in across 4+ time zones, and reflect the original vision for RESPECT 2020.

The team essentially developed a playbook for the event which included training sessions for the presenters, practice sessions for the organizing committee and newly appointed Zoom Chairs, and mini how-to guides for Zoom, the integration of Google documents, how to align the Whova calendar with a virtual schedule with clickable links, Slack for communication, and Whova emails and a living Google Doc Attendee Guide for real-time updates to the attendees. The RESPECT organizing committee each extended their roles to take on new responsibilities to go online. A partial list of the leaders, and the roles they assumed appear at the end of this article. The effort resulted in an incredible event, full of networking, resource sharing, and cross-project pollination.

ECEP’s work was represented in a number of sessions, including two experience reports "Maximizing BPC Through Maryland’s Annual State Summits" and "Through the Looking Glass: Computer Science Education and the Unintended Consequences of Broadening Participation Policy Efforts", both part of the “Broadening Participation in Computing” session cluster. Both reports highlight the impact of ECEP’s work at the state level. Joining ECEP in 2015, Maryland has the longest history of coordinating state-wide summits focused on broadening participation in computing. Through data captured across six summits, authors Garvin, Zarch, Xavier, and Dunton, highlighted the role of a BPC-focused state summit on strategic planning and CS education advocacy.

Tracking unintended consequences was a theme of the 2019 ECEP Convening and during the agenda development phase, the planning team created an agenda driven by forward-thinking goals informed by the reality that educational policy reform efforts can and have had unintended consequences. The experience paper, "Through the Looking Glass: Computer Science Education and the Unintended Consequences of Broadening Participation Policy Efforts" authored by Zarch, Dunton, Childs and Leftwich, shared stories of the unintended consequences from 5 ECEP states and outlines how ECEP’s 5 stage model of state change can help leaders develop data informed strategic plans with the intention of avoiding further unintended consequences.   

Attending the RESPECT Conference and submitting proposals for future calls for papers will continue to be prioritized by the ECEP leadership. RESPECT provides a unique space for the BPC community that is laser focused on equity. ECEP also continues to work with the RESPECT organizing committee to further develop the playbook, with the intention of supporting our colleagues and other conferences that are already planning for virtual events. If you are planning a virtual event, please email ecepalliance@gmail.com; we are happy to share our lessons learned.   

Finally, we would like to acknowledge the leadership of the following organizers of RESPECT. While this list only captures about half of the team who made the conference happen, they were exceptional in their leadership during the swift transition to the online format. 

  • General Chairs Christina Gardner-McCune and Nicki Washington coordinated all the efforts. 

  • Steering Committee Chairs Jamie Payton and Tiffany Barnes brought in attendee communication expertise, utilizing the Whova app and serving as Zoom Chairs.

  • Program Chairs Edward Dillon and Gloria Washington coordinated Discussion Google Docs for each session, and served as Session Chairs, keeping the conference on-schedule while promoting discussion.

  • Poster Chair Aleata Hubbard Cheuoua designed an entirely new format for posters, with 10-minute assigned times for each poster along with discussion docs to track feedback.

  • Panel & Lightning Talks Chair Siobahn C. Day coordinated panelists to be in the right place at the right time, and engaged lightning talk speakers to make video recordings Volunteer Chair Yerika Jimenez coordinated volunteers to help moderate online discussion  

  • Veronica Catete of NC State volunteered to become our Livestream Chair, hosting attendees that were in-person for the event. 

  • RPP for CS Track Chair Alan Peterfreund, and the team at SageFox consulting brought the RPP sessions online.

  •  Kirsten Peterson at EDC, while not on the original organizing committee, gave the team the impetus to go online with her original email volunteering her experience and providing encouragement.