Report: Responsible Computer Science Challenge Summer Summit 2020

By Kathy Pham | Aug. 17, 2020 | Fellowships & Awards

Responsible CS photos

During July 2020, Mozilla hosted the third convening of the 19 awardees of the Responsible Computer Science Challenge. A full list of attendees follows this post.

This was the third in-person meeting, following the July 2019 Summer Kick-Off in San Francisco and October 2019 MozFest Convening in London. The goal of that first kick-off event was for awardees to meet each other, share ideas, hear from industry leaders in responsibility, ethics and tech, and plan for next steps of the Challenge. The goal of this second convening was for awardees to share ideas and challenges with each other, collaborate with the global Responsible Computer Science community, and learn from others within the larger MozFest community. We achieved this with a small group convening on Thursday, a Lessons Showcase at the University College London on Friday, and attendance with the global MozFest community over the weekend. The goal of this third convening was to celebrate our year together, talk about the work ahead, discuss the challenges of teaching through a pandemic, acknowledge the importance of teaching race in the classroom, hear from industry, and share ideas in breakout groups.

We are at a very challenging and important time. It is more important now than ever to understand technology’s role in society, and build responsible technology as we navigate the pandemic and post-pandemic life.

Opening Keynote

Dr. Apryl Williams kicked off the day with Race and Technology in the Computer Science classroom. Dr. Williams shared the current research and information on computer science majors by race and gender, and the level of confidence different students had of their ability to stay in computer science. Dr. Williams discussed the need for faculty members to take the lead in talking about race in the classroom, and creating a safe space for students to do so. She touched on the importance of understanding structural and interpersonal context with Black and Latinx students, offered key approaches in Critical Pedagogies, and outlined methods for talking about Race in the classroom.

A few key ideas from Dr. Apryl Williams:


  • Honor vulnerability – it’s okay to acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers
  • Model authenticity – if you mess up, say so
  • Practice listening – respect silence from BIPOC students; suspend judgement while listening
  • Cultivate compassion – even if you do not share cultural commonalities with students
  • Focus on gratitude – any personal insights that students share about race is a gift that contributes to everyone’s learning; even the instructor
  • Take responsibility
  • Make room for the “off-topic”
  • Claim your privilege
  • Model acceptance of discomfort

Do Not:

  • Do not expect students of color to be primary leaders of discussions about race and politics
  • Do not single out students of color when discussion race or racialized examples
  • Do not blame shift or propose “all sides” responses
  • Do not remain silent in the face of racial injustice in your classroom and on your campus

Help BIPOC students navigate university structures by:

  • Writing syllabus code of conduct sections with space for racial equity – not just broad equality.
  • Introduce mechanisms to reduce bias in your own grading procedures.
  • Connect racial justice to in class activities and discussions.
  • As you are able, request that the university address racial bias in policing on campus.
  • Assign readings from BIPOC scholars in your field.
  • Bring in BIPOC guest lecturers + compensate accordingly.

Dr. Williams is an Assistant Professor of Communication and Media at the University of Michigan, Faculty Associate and Lead of the Race, Tech and Media Group at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center, and Affiliated Researcher at New York University’s Center for Critical Race and Digital Studies.

Opening Circle

Following the Opening Keynote, all 19 colleges and universities had three minutes to share Wins, Challenges, and Updates or Top of Mind topics. Many updates were related to the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected research, ability to convene and collaborate, adjusting to a new normal of supporting students, and in some cases, prioritizing well being and basic education needs. The detailed updates can be found on the Individual Responsible Computer Science Updates Page.

Industry Panel

Four senior leaders in industry joined us for discussion of ethics and social responsibility and the importance of this work to the tech industry:

We discussed the role of Responsible Computer Science curricula in industry. Donald, Emily, Kai, and Bo shared what their respective companies are doing in ethics, responsibility, trust, safety, and more. The topics of discussion included: how teams in their companies are supporting employees who raise ethical issues, case studies and examples in industry that may be useful to academia, community based system dynamics, the importance of interdisciplinary work in both academia and industry, ethics in the software development cycle, and how to effectively manage the “insider” vs. “outsider” mentality that sometimes exists in tech.

  • Donald Martin, Jr., Staff Technical Program Manager and Social Impact Technology Strategist at Google
  • Emily McReynolds, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft
  • Kai Nunez, Senior Director, Research & Insights, Platform Products, Salesforce
  • Bo Ren, Head of US Ecosystem & Assistant GM at Samsung NEXT

Next Steps

As part of the Responsible Computer Science Challenge, we launched the Global Responsible Computer Science Community of Practice. Those working towards integrating social responsibility and ethics into computing curricula around the world are invited to join. The goals of this community: Spark cross disciplinary insights, collaborate with a global cohort, provide a platform for sharing and scaling pedagogy ideas, and continue the work beyond the Responsible Computer Science Challenge.

We plan to host a public showcase of all methods and work. This has not been scheduled. Please join the Global Community of Practice for Updates.


Allegheny College | Meadville, PA | Oliver Bonham-Carter, Janyl Jumadinova

Bemidji State University | Bemidji, MN | Marty J. Wolf, Colleen Greer

Bowdoin College | Brunswick, ME | Stacy Doore, Allison Cooper, Fernando Nascimento

Brown University | Providence, RI | Seny Kamara

Columbia University | New York, NY | Augustin Chaintreau

Georgetown University | Washington, DC | Maggie Little, Elizabeth Edenberg, Jonathan Healey, Sydney Luken

Georgia Institute of Technology | Atlanta, GA | Jason Borenstein, Ben Shapiro, Ellen Zegura

Harvard University | Cambridge, MA | Jeff Behrends, Susan Kennedy, Jill Susarrey

Haverford University | Haverford, PA | Sorelle Friedler

Miami Dade College | Miami, FL | George Gabb, Antonio Delgado

Northeastern University | Boston, MA | Christo Wilson

Santa Clara University | Santa Clara, CA | Shiva Houshmand, Sukanya Manna, Subbu Vincent, Thor Wasbotten

University of California, Berkeley | Berkeley, CA | Margo Boenig-Liptsin

University at Buffalo | Buffalo, NY | Kenneth Joseph, Jenn Winikus

University of California, Berkeley | Berkeley, CA | Margo Boenig-Liptsin, Cathryn Carson, Ari Edmundson

University of California, Davis | Davis, CA | Nina Amenta, Prem Devanbu, Con Diaz, Michael Neff

University of Colorado, Boulder | Boulder, CO | Casey Fiesler

University of Maryland, Baltimore County | Baltimore, MD | Mark Berczynski, Helena Mentis, Nora McDonald, Maria Sanchez

University of Utah | Salt Lake City, UT | Suresh Venkatasubramanian

Washington University | St. Louis, MO | Ron Cytron, Emily Cohen

Mozilla | Kansas City, MO, Boston, MA | Jenn Beard, Kathy Pham