$1 Million Grant to Evaluate Virtual Mentoring for HBCU Undergraduates in Computer Science

Morehouse College and Alabama A&M University are collaborating on a research project to explore the use of chatbots to provide career mentoring for undergraduate computer science majors who are considering pursuing a graduate degree in computing (Award #1831964). The study will include participating students from ten different Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

African Americans with terminal degrees in computer science are scarce. However, HBCUs have a strong history of producing African American students who go on to get advanced degrees in computing. Research in this field will enable effective mentors in computer science to scale their best practices to a more significant percentage of undergraduate students at HBCUs.

The project will also fund the development of formal collaboration between Morehouse College and Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). This groundbreaking program will allow the Principal Investigator, Dr. Kinnis Gosha, to serve as the thesis advisor for Masters students at Georgia Tech while trained as researchers at Morehouse College.

This project will investigate the barriers faced by African American students when deciding on pursuing advanced degrees in computing as well as how intelligent virtual mentors affect their decision. It will examine what the most effective way for an embodied conversational agent to interact with these specific group of students.

The findings from this study will be used to expand to other underrepresented groups to provide career mentoring for an assortment of science careers. Additionally, the conclusions of this research will help to build the research capacity at two HBCUs, Morehouse College and Alabama A&M University.