The creators of this Specialization are the instructors for the first-year Computer Science classes at Rice University. Their goal is to provide a learning experience that is both challenging and fun. Rice University is consistently ranked among the top 20 universities in the U.S. and the top 100 in the world. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy.
Ethnic minorities comprise rapidly growing portions of the populations of most developed countries (1) but are underrepresented in fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) (2, 3). Efforts to increase diversity in the STEM workforce, important for developing more effective approaches to group problem-solving (4–6), have been under way in the United States for decades, but widespread impact remains relatively low (3). The Meyerhoff Scholars Program (MYS) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), provides a promising model for increasing retention and academic performance of underrepresented minority (URM) undergraduates in STEM and for preparing those undergraduates to pursue and succeed in graduate and professional programs (7, 8). Although MYS is nearly 30 years old and outcomes for African-American STEM majors have been extensively documented [see (7, 8) and references therein], no other majority university [not meeting the definition of being a minority-serving institution (MSI) (9)] has achieved similar outcomes (10). We describe here some promising early indicators that an interinstitutional partnership approach can help enable MYS-like outcomes at majority universities with different URM compositions, geographies, and institutional sizes and cultures: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and Pennsylvania State University at University Park (PSU).
The new security law China imposed on Hong Kong last week has created deep uncertainty in the city's academic community. Some researchers worry it could limit academic freedom in Hong Kong—along with freedom of speech and the right to protest—and make it harder to attract scientific talent from abroad. “We don't know exactly how the law will be implemented, but just the perception and uncertainty that it creates will be a problem for the universities,” says Sun Kwok, a Hong Kong–born astronomer who was dean of science at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) for 10 years. But others expect the law's impact on Hong Kong's thriving academic research to be minimal. While its details need to be interpreted by the courts, “I believe that academic research grounded in scientific rigor and thorough analysis of evidence without bias should prevail,” says Fanny Cheung, pro-vice-chancellor for research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). The law is China's answer to the monthslong demonstrations that rocked Hong Kong starting in spring 2019. Triggered by a proposed bill that would have allowed extradition of Hong Kongers to the mainland, the protests eventually targeted a long list of grievances, including the lack of direct elections to choose Hong Kong's chief executive. Although the law states that Hong Kong's tradition of free expression will be protected, many worry about its emphasis on protecting national security. The law gives authorities new powers to punish “secession, subversion, perpetration of terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or with external entities to endanger security.” Approved by China's National People's Congress and signed by President Xi Jinping on 30 June, the law took effect that same day. Within hours, Hong Kong authorities reportedly rounded up hundreds of protesters. In a joint statement issued in early June, when the text of the law was not yet known, the heads of five of Hong Kong's eight public universities—Lingnan University, CUHK, the Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and HKU—wrote that they “understand the need for national security legislation” but pledged, “Our universities will continue to stand fast in upholding the principles of academic freedom and institutional autonomy.” Many expect repercussions. The law “will play into the issue that we've had persuading people from North America who are not ethnically Chinese to think about coming to Hong Kong,” says Matthew Evans, an ecologist and dean of science at HKU. The ban on “colluding” with foreign entities could discourage joint studies with foreign organizations disliked by Beijing in areas such as environmental and food safety research, says Chan King Ming, an environmental scientist at CUHK. Evans also worries about the U.S. decision, in response to the law, to impose the same restrictions on exports of sensitive technologies to Hong Kong as it does on China. Those restrictions might affect imports of laboratory equipment, he says. Others fear more direct effects. The Chinese government tries to control the release of certain research results on the mainland, notes Peter Baehr, a professor of social theory at Lingnan University. In what Baehr calls a “draconian action,” authorities shut down the lab of Zhang Yong-Zhen of Fudan University in Shanghai in January after his group published the first genome of the novel coronavirus without authorization. Baehr worries China may try to influence the dissemination of Hong Kong research results as well. Bruce Lui, a lecturer in journalism at Hong Kong Baptist University, adds that the mainland's concept of national security extends to such areas as economics. That means Hong Kong scholars might have to tread softly if reporting, for example, inflation statistics embarrassing to the government. “Politics and state stability come first,” Lui says. There could also be shifts in university curricula. One article in the new law calls for Hong Kong to “promote national security education in schools and universities,” though it does not say how. “There have been voices in certain political circles in Hong Kong that liberal education is to blame for the student unrest in 2019,” Kwok says. Some scholars are urging caution before pronouncing the death of the “one country, two systems” principle agreed on when sovereignty over Hong Kong was transferred from the United Kingdom to China in 1997. “I believe we need to wait before coming to that very serious and in my view tragic conclusion,” says one Hong Kong-based foreign scientist who asked not to be identified because of the political sensitivities. He adds that the law's lack of detail is already leading to rampant speculation. As a result, “Anyone who is able to leave is probably considering it seriously,” he says. But another senior academic says the few scholars who have already left were motivated not by the security law but “because of the social unrest.” Whatever happens next, Hong Kong's researchers shouldn't engage in self-censorship, Kellee Tsai, dean of humanities and social science at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, wrote in a 2 July message to her faculty and staff. “There may well be non-obvious ‘red lines’ in Hong Kong's higher education sector that cannot be crossed without severe legal consequences,” she said. “Let's not draw those lines ourselves.”