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WGBH and ACM to Launch Initiative to Reshape Image for Computing

NSF Funds Joint Effort to Overturn Inaccurate Stereotypes and Address Workforce Crisis

Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession


Virginia Gold

Lucy Sholley



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New York, May 1, 2008 – The WGBH Educational Foundation and ACM (the Association for Computing Machinery) have received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to research and design a new set of messages that will accurately portray the field of computing. The two-year project, called New Image for Computing, will create a “communications makeover” using extensive testing of messages that appeal to college-bound high school students, with a special focus on Latina girls and African-American boys. The project is aimed at increasing the number of high school students across all segments of society who recognize the excitement and potential of computing and computer science to achieve fulfilling career opportunities. A broad-based workforce equipped with these skills is fundamental to ensuring future U.S. economic competitiveness and prosperity. The project will launch in June.

“As a country, we can’t afford to have less than optimal participation by every segment of society in the computing field, including our schools, universities, business, and industry,” said Julie Benyo, Director of Educational Outreach at WGBH. “We look forward to bringing WGBH’s unique marketing and communications skills to the project, as well as our direct experience in transforming the image of engineering.”

“We will mobilize thousands of computer professionals to help deliver messages that illuminate the rich diversity of work in the computing field – not just in technology companies but in the many industries that rely on computing technology,” said John R. White, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of ACM. “Our target is high school students, who in most cases have only a vague notion of what computer science majors actually do, even though many have grown up with computers.”

The New Image for Computing project will produce a wide-ranging national outreach and communications plan to spread the word about the rewards and benefits of a life in computer science. The project will build educational resources, multimedia components, and a coalition of partners representing parents, teachers and counselors, college and university groups, and the computing community. It will rely on experienced marketing professionals to create the messaging campaign using proven marketing and communications strategies. This team will oversee the project’s extensive research, message development, and testing components to ensure that they accurately reflect the computing field and resonate with target audiences. The team will also collaborate with complementary ongoing initiatives, including iCompute, a national effort of the Image of Computing Task Force.

According to Jill Ross, Director of the Image of Computing Task Force, the underlying image issues stem from deeply rooted beliefs among young people, including a feeling that science is too hard, and over-exposure to media stereotypes of socially isolated programmers. “Thanks to NSF we can offer young people a realistic view of computing in a culturally relevant way to help them find different paths into a variety of careers that encompass their social interests and leverage their computing know-how,” Ross said.

The initiative will also launch a pilot project to further test proposed messages and activities, develop a comprehensive evaluation of the project findings, and create a plan for implementation on a national level. As the grant period ends, the project will be poised to engage in a national rollout plan that will include a range of media technologies to reach teens through their own channels.

About WGBH Boston

WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster, producing such celebrated national PBS series as Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, Frontline, Nova, American Experience, Arthur and more than a dozen other award-winning primetime, lifestyle and children’s series. Boston’s last remaining independent TV station, WGBH produces local TV productions (among them Greater Boston, Basic Black and Maria Hinojosa One-on-One) that focus on the region’s diverse community, while WGBH 89.7 FM is Boston’s NPR Arts & Culture station, offering a rich menu of classical, jazz, blues, news programming and more. WGBH is the leading producer of online content for—one of the most-visited dot-org sites on the Internet—a major producer for public radio and a pioneer in developing educational multimedia and new technologies that make media accessible for people with disabilities. For its efforts, WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors, including Oscars, Emmys, Peabodys and duPont-Columbia Journalism Awards. Visit WGBH on the Web at

About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

About the Image of Computing Task Force

The Image of Computing Task Force leads a national coordination effort to expose a realistic view of opportunities in computing. We aim to educate the public and those with the aptitude and interest to pursue computing careers on the increasing vital role that computing plays in every major field.

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