The 2023 SIGACT Distinguished Service Award is presented to Jelani Nelson for outstanding contributions to broadening participation in computer science, and in theoretical computer science in particular. The most prominent demonstration is Jelani’s founding and leading of AddisCoder, a summer program geared toward high-school students in developing countries that introduces them to the fundamentals of computational thinking. The program has educated more than 500 students in Ethiopia thus far and was recently extended to Jamaica. Several of the students from the program have continued to study computer science at top universities.
Jelani also co-founded the David Harold Blackwell Summer Research Institute, which offers summer research internships to undergraduate students across the U.S. with the aim of increasing the number of African American students pursuing graduate school in the mathematical sciences. Jelani provides specific mentoring to program participants interested in theoretical computer science.
With this award, SIGACT recognizes Jelani Nelson's strong advocacy of computer science education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, his leadership in creating opportunities for them, and his continued efforts in mentoring those embarking on research in theoretical computer science.