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BU Promotes Diversity in STEM Fields with NSF Grants At MED, students from underrepresented groups learn about careers beyond medicine

BU has three National Science Foundation grants to promote diversity in STEM fields; the principal investigators are Linda Hyman, associate provost for the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences (from left), Sarah Hokanson, director of professional development and postdoctoral affairs, and Pamela Templer, a CAS professor of biology. Hyman photo by Vernon Doucette. Hokanson photo by Dan Aguirre. Templer photo by Mike Spencer

MED was one of 27 institutions to receive the award through the NSF’s two-year-old Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES) program, which is aimed at enhancing leadership in STEM discoveries and innovations through diversity and inclusion.

Many students at UMass Lowell are interested in the life sciences and have aspirations of working in the region’s biotech industry, says Matthew A. Nugent, UMass Lowell’s Kennedy College of Sciences associate dean for research, innovation, and partnerships. But, Nugent says, few students know anything about what these jobs—or any jobs in research—entail.

The new BU BEST NSF–funded project—called BEST BET, for Beginning Enhancement Track—is an opportunity to expose UMass Lowell undergraduates to “what the research experience is, what a PhD student is,” Nugent says. “It’s not just going to classes—it’s doing real stuff.”

At Xavier University of Louisiana, Kelly Johanson, an associate professor of chemistry, is part of a faculty team working to engage undergraduates from diverse backgrounds in exploring biomedical research careers through a national, NIH-funded Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) initiative. Xavier, which already partners with BU through BUILD and BU’s BEST BET, will offer additional opportunities for Xavier students to learn firsthand about research careers, says Johanson.

“What’s nice about BU’s BEST BET is that it exposes students to different types of careers other than just traditional professor,” she says. “We have students who are interested in biomedical research, but we don’t have much of that down here. We don’t have somewhere down the street to show them: this is what you can do, these are the possibilities.”

Iowa State University will lead the AGEP grant. The other seven are Cornell, Howard University, Northwestern University, University of Georgia, University of Buffalo, University of Texas, and University of Maryland, College Park. These institutions, as well as BU, are all members of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), a consortium of 43 research universities committed to preparing the next generation of STEM faculty.

Sarah Hokanson (CAS’05), BU director of professional development and postdoctoral affairs, is the principal investigator on the AGEP grant for BU.

“Ensuring that the next generation of faculty fully reflects the diversity in race, gender, culture, and intellectual talent across the United States is an important challenge facing all of higher education,” says Hokanson. “Being a part of the CIRTL AGEP alliance is an exciting opportunity for BU to partner with our peers to strengthen the mentoring relationships between faculty and trainees, improving our research and teaching climates and retaining graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in the academic pipeline.”

Other current BU initiatives aimed at engaging underrepresented students include a project run by Pamela Templer, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of biology, with other CAS and School of Public Health faculty. Templer is the principal investigator on a $3 million, five-year NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) grant to train graduate students from the interdisciplinary PhD programs in biogeoscience at the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and in environmental health at SPH—with a push to target students from underrepresented groups—in tackling some of the major environmental challenges facing cities. Lucy Hutyra, a CAS associate professor of earth and environment, and Jonathan Levy, an SPH professor of environmental health, are co–principal investigators on the NRT grant.

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Why Is Python So In Demand In The Machine Learning And Ai Fields?

For Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, Python has emerged as a well enough and efficient high-level programming language. Data scientists, academics, and developers in various fields embrace it as their language of choice. What, though, makes Python such a perfect combination for these applications and research areas? We’ll analyze Python’s significance in the machine learning and AI disciplines in this article.

The Top Seven Reasons for Python’s Popularity in AI and Machine Learning Ease of Use and Readability

Python is an easy-to-read and gaining knowledge of programming language, making it perfect for novices. Its simple syntax and readable, herbal language fashion make it easy to write and comprehend, enabling builders to produce comprehensible code quickly and effectively. This is especially important in the field of computers gaining knowledge of artificial talent (AI), the place where code can be very complicated and challenging to understand. Working with these kinds of apps is a tremendous suit for Python due to the fact of its simplicity and readability.

Large Community and Resources

Python has a large and bright developer community that is usually developing new machines and gaining knowledge of artificial intelligence frameworks, libraries, and tools. This suggests that programmers have access to a huge variety of tools, consisting of open-source initiatives, tutorials, and documentation, that can enhance their development processes, hasten time-to-market, and make it simpler to address difficult problems.

Availability of Powerful Libraries

For working with data and growing AI and ML models, Python comes with a variety of modules that have proven to be quite helpful. NumPy and Pandas are two of the most famous libraries due to the fact they supply useful information structures and tools for manipulating and examining data. Additionally, Scikit-Learn is a vital library that offers a wide selection of machine learning and statistical modeling algorithms.

Flexibility and Versatility

Scientific computing, web development, data processing, and visualization are just a few of the many uses that Python’s versatility makes possible. In the disciplines of machine learning and AI, where developers routinely work with various types of data and models, this adaptability is particularly essential. Python is a flexible alternative for challenging tasks because it also allows for simple integration with other programs and languages.

High-Performance Computing

Although Python isn’t recognized for being fast, there are ways to improve its efficiency. Utilizing tools and libraries made especially for this purpose is one such method. For instance, just-in-time compilation can be used with Numba to speed up Python programming. Another choice is PyPy, a different Python implementation that offers superior performance. Additionally, Python can be used in conjunction with other high-performance computing equipment like C++ and CUDA to similarly increase performance.

Support for Deep Learning Frameworks Increasing Industry Adoption

In addition to the aforementioned reasons, the enormous use of Python in the AI and ML fields can also be attributed to its growing adoption by using leading enterprise players. Big names like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have developed their very own Python-based equipment and libraries, which has in addition pushed its growth in the field. As a result, authorities who are well-versed in Python are in excessive demand and can obtain a range of job opportunities.


In summary, Python has earned a reputation as the programming language of preference for professionals in computers gaining knowledge of artificial intelligence. Its large community and ecosystem of libraries, along with its simple syntax and readability, make it a reachable and adaptable tool for working with difficult records analysis and deep learning. Python is projected to preserve its dominance in the place as demand for laptop learning and AI rises, making it a vital device for companies making an attempt to use records for increase and innovation.

Many Cyberattacks Stem From Poor Access Management

Access management stops unauthorized individuals from accessing sensitive or restricted data and resources. 

Poor access management can lead to data breaches, as businesses may not have a way to ensure only certain accounts can access specific data. 

Businesses can significantly strengthen their access management policies by mandating multifactor authentication and password vaults. 

This article is for business leaders and IT administrators who want to learn more about strengthening access management to prevent data breaches.

From Target to Equifax, major public-facing companies have fallen victim to unauthorized parties gaining access to sensitive data. News of data breaches may conjure images of cunning hackers and sophisticated algorithms surreptitiously infiltrating networks and stealing secure data. However, whether because of stolen credentials, phishing, employee misuse or simple human error, humans are often the root cause of security breaches. 

Fortunately, strong access management can help mitigate the severity of data breaches. We’ll explore how access management can prevent and avoid security threats and share tips for establishing robust access management policies. 

What is access management? 

Access management is a solution businesses use to enforce the concept of AAA (authentication, authorization and accounting) — a necessary element of cybersecurity. 

The AAA premise is that computer systems should let only specific, verified and authorized people or processes access certain data, resources or network environments. Additionally, systems should keep a clear record of who accessed what resources and what those individuals may have done to those resources. While AAA may sound straightforward, its application across complex systems can be challenging.

Access management solutions are often part of broader identity and access management (IAM) tools. Businesses use these tools to help assign and manage users’ digital identities, such as login credentials.  

Within IAM, access management’s role is to assign, verify, control and manage users’ access to specified processes, data or systems. Businesses have multiple avenues for enforcing access management. Each access management approach seeks to ensure only the correct people or processes access specific resources. 

Did You Know?

Access management is related to zero-trust architecture, a security practice that focuses on protecting data by authenticating users, authorizing access and validating user identity.

How access management policies can improve cybersecurity

A well-thought-out and comprehensive access management policy is essential to a business’s security. Just as weak access management policies increase the risk of a breach, strong access management policies increase overall business security. Without these policies, a business won’t have proper visibility into who can access certain resources.

Access management policies can improve cybersecurity in the following ways: 

Proper access management can reduce credential theft. According to the Verizon report, almost 50 percent of breaches were related to stolen credentials. Credentials were hackers’ favorite data to steal, allowing them to move within a network without suspicion. With proper access management, businesses can lock down user accounts to ensure employees have access only to what they absolutely need. 

Proper access management can spot and halt potential breaches. Microsoft’s March 2023 data breach response shows how an organization with strong access management policies can stop a potential breach in its tracks. Proper access management can help IT managers spot and halt potential attacks and avoid the fallout of a data breach. Ideally, strong access management would help prevent malicious external actors from snooping where they shouldn’t. 

Proper access management can detect employee fraud. Access management policies with a strong auditing component can help log suspicious employee activity. This can help organizations flag potential insider breaches and external hackers who hijack a legitimate employee’s account with stolen credentials. 

Proper access management can stop further hacker damage. Access management could also make it more difficult for attackers to move laterally after gaining initial access to a network. Essentially, this means that access management could prevent a hacker from moving deeper into a network to search for sensitive information. 

Did You Know?

In cases where access management policies did not entirely prevent a breach, their widespread application may help mitigate the damage of a data breach.

Tips for establishing strong access management policies

Robust access management policies are essential for businesses to secure their environments. Fortunately, many access management tips and trends are available to businesses, including the following: 

Take a zero-trust approach. In addition to implementing multifactor authentication and password vault solutions such as password managers, businesses should work with their IT managers to establish zero-trust architecture. “It’s well past time to secure privileged access with a zero-trust approach, and many organizations can significantly harden their security posture with low-hanging fruit like a password vault and multifactor authentication,” Steinkopf said. If businesses don’t have the necessary technical ability, managed service providers can help businesses build and secure their networks. 

Prioritize compliance regulations. Businesses should also look to compliance regulations in their industry and establish complementary policies. Complying helps for regulatory reasons while also serving as a guide for access management policy criteria. 

Audit employee accounts. Businesses should perform frequent audits of employee accounts to check for signs of employee fraud. Closed, “orphaned” accounts belonging to former employees should be shut down and revoked their privileges to stop hackers or former employees from using them. Audits should also look at privileges associated with current employees to stop potential privilege-creep scenarios. 


Security equipment, including key fobs and keyless electronic door locks, can help prevent unauthorized access to your premises and areas that house sensitive information, thereby reducing the chances of costly physical or data theft.

Access management is a crucial security concept

Access management is a foundational concept that can improve your business’s cybersecurity. Implementing a sound access management policy can help ensure that only the correct, authorized people or processes can access specific resources or data. While access management alone can’t stop cyber incidents, a well-developed policy can greatly mitigate cyberattacks and stop them from worsening. 

With the continuing change in work environments — such as the shift to the cloud, mobile work, and hybrid and remote work environments — comprehensive access management is more essential than ever. 

In particular, a zero-trust approach can help organizations limit malicious access to critical resources. By adopting a zero-trust mindset, Steinkopf said, “organizations can further reduce their risk of becoming the next data breach victim.”

Andrew Martins contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

5 Data Studio Functions For Calculated Fields

Google Data Studio (now called Looker Studio) has a lot of features and it keeps adding new ones into the mix.

I’m going to show you my top five favorite Google Data Studio Functions for Calculated Fields to customize your data:

With Functions, you can actually upgrade your game when you build a Calculated Field in Data Studio. This is something that we all know from Google Sheets. We probably use the SUM Function or the AVERAGE Function often to add up fields or a row of data. 

In Data Studio, you can now do so much with calculations in Calculated Fields and utilize Functions. And today, I want to show you five of these Functions that you should utilize in your Calculated Fields.

Before we get started if you’re looking for a more comprehensive step-by-step course on Data Studio, then check out our Data Studio Essentials Training inside of our MeasureMasters membership.

Where to Create Calculated Fields in Data Studio

All right, let’s start out in Google Data Studio, looking at what Functions actually are. So if you have a chart, you can use Functions and input Functions in two ways.

1. Chart Level Calculated Fields

One is on a chart basis itself by adding a metric or dimension right here, then creating a field. Here you can see you can enter Functions to calculate that particular field. But this is then only available within this chart. 

2. Data-Source Level Calculated Fields

If you want to make it available within the data source, you need to create a new field down here. It will open up the Create new field editor where we can also enter our Function. 

🚨 Note: A great way to pull data from third-party data sources is Google Data Studio connectors

1. LOWER/UPPER Function Change Text Dimensions to Lowercase or Uppercase

We can utilize a Function in a Calculated Field to calculate a new field that simply takes this dimension and makes a new one with all lowercase sources. So let’s create this. We go to create a new field, and this will all be our lowercase source. As a Function, we’ll use our LOWER Function to simply use our source field as an input field. Once we get a green checkmark down here, everything should be good to go. Save this and edit to our chart right here. You see the input was taken from the source field, and then rewritten in lowercase. This is the case for every variation.

If you get rid of the source field have a much smaller, much more readable data set that we can now visualize appropriately. The LOWER or even the UPPER Function can be used to lowercase or capitalized strings text and rewrite them in a new dimension. 

2. CONCAT Function Use Case: Combine Host Name & Page Path to Create a FUll URL Dimension

For example, you might be familiar with a case like this, where you have your page path, especially when you have multiple domains attached to your Google Analytics account, it might be a bit deceiving. So, let’s add here, our hostname to this dimension. As we see it actually splits it up and shows us that, for example, the homepage belongs to different subdomains right here. 

What if we wanted to actually combine both of these so we have a more understandable data set. Or we can do this with text as well, by creating a new field. Using the Function of concatenate a call this full URL and will simply use the concatenate Function which has CONCAT as an input field, it takes the hostname and the page path. 

Here we go. Let’s save this and look at the result. We have our full URL here, pull that in. 

We can see what’s in between right now let’s put this down here. This plus this equals this new full-page path.

And again, we can get rid of our other dimensions and just have the full path for our understandable data. So concatenate is another Function you can use in your Calculated Fields in Data Studio to manipulate text and string together different text dimension values.

3. REGEX_EXTRACT Function  Use Case: Pull Search Query From Page Path

Let’s move on to the next example, which is the REGEX_EXTRACT function. An example here would be that you have a page path, which is clearly the search of your website. At the end of the URL, you have this q= parameter and afterward, the search string that was used on your website. 

This clearly shows the search. But to make it all more readable, why not pull out and extract the search query and put into a separate report. Again, here, we can use a Function. 

Let’s go ahead and create a new field, which is our search term. Here we’re going to use the REGEX_EXTRACT Function, which takes a Field as an input, which is our page path. Then our regular expression, you would need to know a bit of Regex in order to be able to use this effectively. But it’s well worth learning. Check out our tutorial on how to use Regex with our video right here.

The Regex that we will use here is simply looking for the query parameter, q=

Using a capture group to pull out anything that is in the back of this capture group that should do it.

Let’s save this and have a look at how this works.

It has pulled out these search terms from our page path. We can get rid of our page path variable to have a nice search term report.

4. REGEX_MATCH Function Identify which values contain certain keywords

Next up is the REGEX_MATCH Function.

In our example here, we have a search query report for a language learning website. As you might expect, users are often searching for the target language that they want to learn. But there are some more hidden key phrases that reveal more about what the users up to. 

If you go here into the view and look down here, maybe you can find one of those How are you was actually something you need to really dig through.

But here, for example, why French is… Why French is not as hard as you think, interesting. These search terms that start with why, what, when, where are oftentimes more telling about what the user actually wants, and might give us some ideas on future content generation, or keywords that you might want to book in Google Ads.

Let’s try to pull them out and actually filter them out. There are different methods of doing so. But a Function that you can use here is the REGEX_MATCH option.

Let’s try it out in a Calculated Field. We go over to create a new field. We’ll try to pull out our what, when, where and so on questions. We’ll utilize the REGEX_MATCH Function.

As an input, we take our query string and type in the regular expression to detect whether there is what when aware inside of the text.

This means that as long as they couldn’t, in the sentence, we should be able to pick this up.

Let’s save this and add this to our sheet. What this REGEX_MATCH option does is it spits out a false or true. In this case, all of these are false. But we should be able to find one or two of these trues. Let’s see here we have a true for how to learn French. This field can actually be used for a filter. 

Use Case: Create a Filter to Include or Exclude Search Terms Containing these Keywords

There are a lot of different ways of filtering data. But now that we have that new column, let’s use it for filter, simply filter out our w questions. We only want to include when, what, where equals true, let’s save this.

And voila, we get our list filter down to these terms like this a bit larger. So we’ll be able to see this. But we don’t actually need to have this column right here, we could also take it out and only look at this data and call this the one where report. The REGEX_MATCH option can be used to classify and search through strings of data. Then it could be used for example to create a filter. Or, as we can see in the next example, for bit more sophisticated filtering, which brings us to our last Function, which is probably the most used one is the case Function.

5. CASE Function – An If This, Then That Type Function

This is a very popular and also very powerful Formula. Here we have the same report as before. But this time, we’ll use the case Formula to build a more dynamic filter that we can utilize with a dynamic chart, let me show you what I mean.

The case Formula is really an if this, then that Formula, we will call this w class. And our case Formula always starts with a very succinct syntax. It starts with a case keyword and follows with when clauses. So when x happens, then do y. You can have multiple of these conditions in here. But at the end, you might want to have an else clause, which would then say, if none of the above are true, then just put this one in place. And all everything is ended with the end clause. This is the syntax of a case Formula. Let’s fill this out. 

What do we want to happen? 

Well, on the first classification, we would like to use our REGEX_MATCH option again, to filter by our query. And this time, we only put in as a Regex our who question for example, and when the who is found in the string, then I would like to classify it as who question mark. We can do this with all the different w questions.

So we would have why, and so on. In the end, if none of them are true, we just put this as others. Let me fill this out really quickly here. Here we have all our questions in here now, why, how, when, what, where, and it shows green.

Let’s update this. 

Put our new dimension in the report. We should see if we put this in the right order. We now have the how questions, the why questions, all classified in different categories. It’s kind of the same as we have a true or false but it’s more categories. 

Use Case: Create a Filter to Show Only Query Terms

How can this be useful? Well, if we duplicate this, and get rid of our query right here, we are only left with the query type terms that we imported into our Custom Dimension. 

There is a feature within Data Studio that actually lets us use this table as a filter.

How can you classify this as a filter?

Well, there’s an option down here on the interactions apply filter.

There are many other use cases for the CASE Function. But in general, if you want to classify something and aggregate it together, you might want to use the CASE Function for this purpose.

Use Cases might include general grouping or content grouping. Importantly, you can’t do this retroactively. Even if your data set doesn’t provide the channel grouping, by default, you can go in and edit it later. The CASE Function is really a powerful tool within Data Studio to have available for your data visualization.

FAQ How can I create Calculated Fields using Functions in Google Data Studio? What is the purpose of the REGEX_EXTRACT Function in Data Studio?

The REGEX_EXTRACT Function is used to extract specific patterns or values from a text dimension using regular expressions. For example, you can use this function to pull the search query from a page path or URL. By creating a Calculated Field with the REGEX_EXTRACT Function, you can extract the desired information and present it in a separate field.

How can I use the REGEX_MATCH Function in Data Studio?

The REGEX_MATCH Function helps identify whether a text dimension contains certain keywords or patterns using regular expressions. It returns a Boolean value (true/false) indicating the presence of the specified pattern. You can create a Calculated Field with the REGEX_MATCH Function to classify and filter data based on specific keywords or patterns.


All right, so there you have it, my favorite Functions to use for Calculated Fields in Data Studio.

Also, a great way to add extra information to your GDS reports is to add tooltip annotations to your graphs, charts, or reports.

Silicon Valley Leader Discusses Change, Diversity And Drive

Editor’s Note: This conversation is a part of our ongoing “Future State Of” series. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Corporate boards are making more crucial decisions than ever, as they work to help manage risk and set companies up to win in the future economy. Few people understand that dynamic better than Shellye Archambeau, the former CEO of Silicon Valley risk management software firm MetricStream, and a current board member on a number of major companies, including Verizon and Nordstrom. Taher Behbehani, GM and SVP of Samsung B2B, sits down with Archambeau, author of a newly released book, “Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms,” to discuss how boards are operating in a marketplace affected by COVID-19 and how Silicon Valley has changed during her time in the tech sector.

Taher Behbehani: Hi Shellye, thanks so much for your time and insights today. You’re on a number of boards of very impressive companies. What has been going on in these boards in response to the current crises?

Shellye Archambeau: Boards are focused on governance and risk management, so we spend a lot of time looking at risk and mitigation plans. But no one had as a risk that the economy would suddenly shut down and that everybody would have to go home and not move. So, I don’t fault anyone for missing this particular risk. Frankly, I thought everybody has responded very well. Initially, leaders had to make sure employees were safe, that customers were safe and that companies could continue to operate. We had to understand our cash position. And everyone responded as you would expect in terms of that overall focus.

Emerging changes from the pandemic era

See key learnings and statistics from the Future State of Business 2023 survey and report. Read Here

And then it shifted pretty quickly and became focused on strategy. Because the kinds of changes we’re going through right now are impacting people. They’re impacting buyer behavior, they’re impacting habits. And whenever you have situations like these, trends in general tend to accelerate. And we’re seeing that. Suddenly videoconferencing went from being less than 10 percent to probably 80 percent of how communications are happening. Trends have gone from taking years to all of a sudden happening in a matter of months. Which means we’re in a time of big disruption, and with disruption comes risk. But with risk comes a lot of opportunity. I always like to say, risk and opportunity are two sides of the same coin.

TB: Are the boards you’re on meeting more or less often?

SA: Since the beginning of March, I’ve had more board meetings than I had all of last year. So yes, we’re meeting a lot!

TB: What are the leadership traits you see in your companies that the executive team needs to be enhancing?

SA: If you look at managing global operations — especially during heightened change and major disruption — there are several leadership skills that are so important. One is the ability to be clear. Clarity of communications, clarity of focus, clarity in terms of setting overall priorities. Because when so much change is happening all at once, if a leader isn’t clear about what is critical to the business going forward, then there is a lot of wasted energy.

The second aspect of leadership that I think is important is empathy. Right now, employees across the board are stressed, and there are mental health challenges as people try to figure out how to operate in this upside-down world. So, leadership right now without empathy is a dangerous place to be. Because when employees can make a change, they will. And we all know that we’re in a talent shortage. Now’s the time for empathetic leaders.

TB: You were one of the first African American CEOs to run a tech business in Silicon Valley. What has changed, and what’s going on now in Silicon Valley?

SA: In some ways, Silicon Valley has changed a bit, and in some ways it hasn’t changed. When I first arrived in Silicon Valley, I was shocked at how little racial diversity actually existed. I always thought that because Silicon Valley is innovative, fast-paced and leaning forward that diversity would be part of it, too. So, that was a shock.

Today, there are absolutely more African American and Hispanic founders of companies than there were back then. Are there as many as there should be? No. Are they getting as much support as they should be getting? No. Do they get as much visibility? No. So, in some ways we’ve improved. But we haven’t actually created an environment in which they are able to succeed at the rates that they should be. I do think today there is more intent to make changes than there has ever been. And for that, I am cautiously optimistic.

TB: What gives you hope when you look around in terms of diversity?

SA: There are probably three main things. One is the fact that for the first time we are actually talking about race. Race was one of those things that was taboo to discuss. It was so taboo that it wasn’t even mentioned as one of the taboo topics. So, the fact that we’re talking about it is good.

And third, businesses are actually engaging and really leaning into this issue. And again, this is the first time. They sat on the sidelines during the Civil Rights Movement. So those three aspects of change is why I’m cautiously hopeful.

TB: If you look at the workforce in the companies that you are involved with, how do you think it will shift in the near future?

SA: I think companies are realizing that a lot of the roles that they thought had to be at headquarters, don’t have to be. And what that’s going to do is open up a whole other set of talent. Because if I can actually leverage talent for certain skill sets wherever it happens to be, versus it having to be right in my backyard, it actually expands the pool. Which I think is good for the country.

TB: Tell me about your new book, “Unapologetically Ambitious.” What inspired you to write it?

SA: I wanted to share the lessons, tactics and approaches I’ve learned and the things I used to achieve what I have. It’s a book about how to get what you want out of life professionally and personally by being intentional. By setting goals and putting plans in place to achieve those goals. By making choices and strategic trade-offs. By overcoming impostor syndrome. By learning how to work with challenging bosses. The book is very practical and tangible. If you don’t walk away after reading my book with at least five new ideas or approaches that you can use, then I’ve totally failed.

TB: I really look forward to reading it. Thank you.

Discover how Samsung’s solutions are empowering productivity for businesses that have transitioned to remote work. And keep up to date with the latest announcements and insights by following Taher Behbehani on Twitter.

How To Manage An Engaging Virtual Stem Program

A STEM initiative kick-started by the pandemic continues to have value in a district where some students are continuing with hybrid learning.

As the coronavirus pandemic prompted school closures across the nation in early 2023, school districts scrambled to meet the needs of schools, families, and students, creating emergency remote education (ERE) to provide students with virtual instruction. However, ERE raised a number of concerns, including absenteeism and lack of student engagement.

In the Compton Unified School District (CUSD), an urban K–12 school district with approximately 24,000 students (85 percent Latino and 15 percent African American), more than 80 percent of students opted for virtual instruction during the 2023–21 school year. To minimize the impact of Covid—while maintaining focus on continuing our district’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics program—CUSD integrated a series of virtual STEM-related activities within the ERE program.

The CUSD Education Technology Department created a variety of programs targeting specific goals within grades 3 through 12, and we recommend that the grades prekindergarten to 2 adopt the CS Unplugged program, which facilitates students’ understanding of the fundamentals of computer science without the use of computers.

Throughout the 2023 summer and fall school semesters, the EdTech Department sponsored seven districtwide engagement challenges immersing students within various facets of computer science.

1. STEAM camps: Three-day camps for grades 3 through 8 that introduced students to the engineering design process, app design, and video editing, as well as Scratch and Minecraft.

2. App prototyping: A six-week project for middle and high school students to learn how to build a hyperlinked slidedeck simulating a computer application that addresses a social justice or sustainability issue.

3. Scratch competition: An interdisciplinary four-week competition for students in grades 4 through 8 that taught them how to code with Scratch. Challenges included coding narratives or games that addressed the theme of the coexistence of humans with nature and celebrating Black History Month.

4. Minecraft competition: An interdisciplinary four-week competition for grades 3 through 8 in which students addressed the theme of sustainability using Minecraft.

5. Esports: Seven-week programs for middle and high school students playing video games with an emphasis on social and emotional learning and collaboration, as well as connecting them to career-related and technical education pathways.

6. Virtual career fair: A STEM-related career fair for middle and high school students to meet industry professionals synchronously or asynchronously.

7. Partner engagement day: Industry partners facilitated 90-minute hands-on STEM-related activities with middle school students.

4 Factors Guiding Our Online STEM Initiative

Collaboration: It’s essential to have a knowledgeable team in place to design and support STEM challenges. CUSD’s EdTech Department consists of a director and six specialists, each of whom took a leading role for one of the computer science activities, with the remainder of the team functioning in supportive roles.

The CUSD computer science challenges were designed based on the EdTech team’s interests and competencies, and a shared belief that the activities also address relevant social issues such as climate change and social justice. The team lead and team members supported one another in logistics, curriculum possibilities, instructional support, and creating learning assessments.

Other district department members became part of the team by taking on roles such as Zoom room hosts, competition judges, and physical assemblers of engineering kits for students’ remote learning. Even the superintendent temporarily joined the team. Our collaboration was the impetus behind students coding Scratch digital stories around Black History, building sustainable Minecraft living spaces, and prototyping apps.

Alignment: Even with modifications and accommodations owing to the pandemic, our team knew that it was important to make sure that curricular choices and activities align with various governing bodies. Each student-facing project aligns with NGSS, ISTE, and math standards. The EdTech Department operates its STEM initiative in alignment with the goals highlighted in CUSD’s Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and in compliance with the state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).

Partnerships: CUSD leveraged partnerships with community and industry partners to support STEM initiatives. For example, partners served as computer science tutors who helped students build code, as well as judged competitions.

During the virtual career fair, industry partners provided the platform to host the event. For the partner engagement day, each CS partner was asked to design a 90-minute hands-on lesson for students (for example, Hack-a-Box), while the EdTech team organized classes of students into 90-minute rotating blocks in which community and industry partners taught lessons.

Addressing disparities in education and careers: Students have to be introduced to STEM in school if we expect them to pursue STEM-related careers. However, there is research marking the implementation and expansion of opportunities for computer science education as an issue of educational equity for students traditionally underrepresented in computer science.

Although students learning computer science is a chief technology education goal and part of a nationwide initiative (as STEM occupations are expected to grow), we currently face a shortage of STEM majors and graduates. Recognizing the dearth of underserved populations that enter STEM fields, CUSD designs various programs year-round to address this issue.

CUSD’s EdTech Department continues in ERE for the 2023–22 school year, now operating within a hybrid model. Feel free to connect with CUSD’s EdTech team for more information about our STEM initiative or how to pivot your STEM program to support students virtually.

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