Most undergraduate students know that connecting with other students in your major is important for getting help on big assignments, swapping career advice, and even celebrating after an exam. These benefits are part of why Computer Sciences major Carla Rose decided to start a chapter of the national organization ColorStack at UW-Madison.
ColorStack aims to help Black, Latinx, and Native American students studying computer science complete their degrees and get hired after graduating. Rose originally joined ColorStack at the national level about a year ago before meeting with the founder and CEO to set up a chapter at UW-Madison.
“The benefits of joining [ColorStack] are building community in a safe space with your classmates, opportunities just for ColorStack students from our partners, and getting homework and career advice,” said Rose, who is now the president of the UW-Madison chapter.
ColorStack partners with a number of companies to provide job opportunities and programming events to support students. For example, ColorStack at UW-Madison recently had an event where students were able to learn from a software engineer who works at Epic Systems about their career.
“We try to make these academic events [in programming] languages that our major doesn’t heavily cover so that everyone can learn something, no matter the grade level,” said Camille Forster, who serves as the events chair for ColorStack.
In addition to professional development opportunities, ColorStack also organizes social events for members to allow them to connect in a non-academic setting. This is especially important for community building, as students of color are often underrepresented in the computer science industry.
“Being a LatinX and female in CS is more of an obstacle than an advantage. It can be extremely isolating at times to be the odd one out in a 100+ student lecture,” Forster said. “Knowing that I always have this community to rely on is simply comforting, almost like a home away from home.”
Rose and Forster hope that more students will get involved in ColorStack as the organization continues to grow and expand its programming. They agree that more students would join ColorStack if they knew more about it.
“This is a supportive organization, but we would love to expand our network and have more students in attendance in our meetings,” Rose said.”