Course Syllabus

Syllabus CS STARS Seminar

Spring 2024

Important Links:  

Course Overview

Instructors: Nancy Amato, Carolyn Hughes, Cynthia Coleman

Teaching Assistants: Marta Markowicz, Simon Kato


Course Meeting Time and Room: Wednesdays 5:00 – 6:00 PM in Siebel 2405 (typically we will end at 5:50,  but keep the entire hour reserved).


Requirements and Grading: The course is heavily focused on hands-on planning and active, in-class participation. In person attendance is mandatory unless extenuating circumstances arise, which should be communicated to the instructor and course staff in advance. 

Letter Grade: A >93%, A- >90%, B+ >87%, B >83%, B- >80% etc. 

Point Distribution:

  1. Participation: 25, composed of
    • Class attendance: 15 (1 for attendance at each class)
    • Individual Mentoring Meetings with BPC Fellows and Course Instructors: 5 (1 * 5 meetings)
    • Feedback surveys: 5 (2.5 midterm survey, 2.5 final survey)
  2. Research Activities: 50, composed of
    • CS STARS Profile: 5 (2.5 for personal information, 2.5 for research description)
    • Resume: 5
    • Midterm Report: 10
    • Poster & Presentation: 20 (10 poster, 10 presentation at Symposium)
    • Final Report: 10
  3. Engagement & Leadership Activities: 25, composed of
    • CS Celebration of Excellence - All CS STARS will participate, both being honored at this annual departmental awards banquet and ceremony and supporting the event
    • Other activities, such as EOH, recruitment events, outreach activities, RSO facilitation, etc.

Course Description

CS STARs are expected to engage in research with their mentors and in recruitment, community building and outreach activities (per the CS STARS program description). 

During the class meeting time on Wednesdays from 5-6pm, we will have presentations related to research skills (e.g., reading/writing research papers, poster developments and presentation), professional development(e.g., resume writing, graduate school) and opportunities to share and practice these skills with other CS STARS. We will also have dedicated time for training and planning for recruiting, engagement and outreach activities. 


To support these missions, the CS STARS course includes the following components:

Participation (25 points)

  • Class Attendance. One aim of CS STARS is to build community among the students in the program. The course is also heavily focused on hands-on planning and active, in-class participation. In support of this, in-person class attendance is mandatory barring extenuating circumstances (e.g. illness, research conference travel). Please contact the course staff as soon as a conflict arises!
    • Points: 15 total, 1 point for in-person attendance for each class.
  • Mentoring meetings with Course Staff: The intent of these sessions is to help ensure STARS receive assistance they may need navigating their research or other parts of their academic career.  Each CS STAR will have one meetings with Carolyn Hughes over the course of the semester. STARS will also have three 30-minute mentoring meetings with a graduate BPC Fellow, about once a month. STARS may also schedule an optional meeting with Nancy Amato, which can replace one of the BPC fellow meetings.
    • Points: 5 total, 1 for each of 5 meetings.
  • Class Feedback Surveys, Week 8 (March 8th) and End of Semester (May 10th). We want to improve the CS STARS program and know that you will have some of the best feedback for us. We welcome your ideas anytime, and will formally request feedback from you about midway through the semester and at the end. These surveys will be anonymous, if you wish, but we will track who has completed them so that we can give you credit for them.
    • Points: 5 total, 2.5 for the midterm survey and 2.5 for the final survey


Research Activities (50 points)

As a CS STAR, you are expected to spend an average of 6-7 hours a week on research activities outside of class. There are several milestones related to research activities. These milestones are intended to keep CS STARS on track with their research and help the course staff provide support where needed. The milestones are as follows:

  • CS STARS Profile: Personal Info (Week 2-Jan 22nd) and Research Description (Week 4-Feb 12th): Each CS STAR will be featured on the CS STARS webpages. The profile includes some information about you and your research activities. This is an opportunity for us to promote you, but it also lets prospective students learn a bit about you and see that computer science might be for them. It will include a short description  (1 paragraph) about your research topic/project. You should review this with your mentor and get their feedback before submitting it. Initially, this may just be a brief description of the topic, and later you might revise it to describe what you are doing in more detail. Note: STARS with new research mentors can submit their research description within two weeks of having a mentor assigned.
    • Points: 5 total, 2.5 points for personal information and 2.5 points for research description
  • Resume (Week 3-Jan 29th): You will submit a resume that will be included in your CS STARS profile on the CS STARS webpages. You will receive feedback from the course staff to help you present your accomplishments and you’ll have an opportunity to update your resume based on that before it is posted publicly. 
    • Points: 5 total
  • Midterm Research Status Survey, Week 8 (March 8th): You will submit a midterm report regarding your research activities. The goal of this report is to ensure your research is on track and that you are working effectively with your research group, and to identify any areas which might need additional attention so that we can help you address them. We will also ask your research mentor to provide a status report regarding your research activities.The intention here too is to understand how things are going and if there is anything the course staff can do to assist.
    • Points: 10 total
  • Poster & Poster Presentation, Weeks 14 (April 23rd): You will prepare a poster describing your research activities and present it at the ISUR Research Expo on April 23rd, 2024. Students that are working with teams will be able to collaborate on joint posters, if they wish. Your poster should include an introduction that motivates your work, methods, preliminary results, discussion, and conclusion. If you do not have any preliminary results, talk about what you plan to do and what progress you have made thus far..
    • Points: 20 total, 10 points for final versions of the poster, and 10 points for the presentation at Trick or Research
  • Final Research Status Survey, End of Semester (May 10th): You will submit a final report regarding your research activities. The objective of this report is to provide you an opportunity to share your reflections regarding your research experience over the semester. We’re interested to know how you interacted with your research group, how the experience impacted your interest in engaging in research in the future, and generally what you felt you learned from the experience. We will also ask your research mentor to provide feedback regarding your research activities over the semester.
    • Points: 10 total


Support and Leadership of Engagement Activities (25 points)

As a CS STAR, you are expected to spend an average of 3-4  hours a week outside of class over the course of the semester to support the CS department’s outreach, engagement, and recruiting efforts, particularly as they relate to Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC). Although this will be the average, depending on the activity, and the level of the CS STAR’s engagement, the actual time spent on any given week may vary. The course staff will work with the CS STARS to ensure the schedule is manageable for the individual CS STARs and each activity is properly supported. 

These activities include assistance with undergraduate recruitment (e.g., Illini Days, admitted student events), departmental community building activities (e.g., Trick-or-Research, Celebration of Excellence), and community outreach activities (e.g., ChicTech, elementary school visits, or Engineering Open House). Some of these events are led by the CS STARS and some are run by the department or student organizations already, but for which the CS STARS will provide volunteering and support. There are also opportunities for CS STARS to serve as liaisons with student organizations to help facilitate connections with the CS STARS so that we may support their programs and events where possible. 

Each CS STAR is expected to serve as part of a leadership team for at least one activity during the semester.. Past examples of these events include the Parent’s Track at SAIL and hosting a panel discussion at Kenwood Elementary. Team leads will pick their own checkpoints (three) and produce brief documents updating their progress on each checkpoint. Additionally, team leads will be asked to produce a brief summary with an event retrospective and lessons learned for future semesters. Document templates will be made available via Canvas.

We know that we do not have a full understanding of all the activities our CS STARS are already engaged in. As such, we will have optional activity reports to serve as a way to document your other ongoing activities. CS STARS are encouraged to submit Activity Reports for the activities they already do which are not otherwise tracked in our activities (e.g., Reflections/Projections conference planning, WCS planning) to help document the scope of the department’s ongoing activities and also to ensure these activities are taken into account for load balancing.

There are two engagement activities in Fall 2023 in which all CS STARS will participate, the SAIL family of events (Aspirations, SAIL parent track, admitted Women’s day, and Mosaic) and the CS Celebration of Excellence. 

  • Celebrating ([DATE}): This is an All Hands Event. Each CS STAR will support and attend this event.
  • Other Engagement Activities throughout the semester. Each CS STAR will also participate in additional engagement activities. As described above, these may include Engineering Open House, recruitment events, outreach activities, RSO facilitation, etc. In addition, also as described above, each CS STAR is expected to take on a leadership role in at least one such activity over the semester.  Near the beginning of the semester, CS STARS will indicate the preferences and the course staff will work to make assignments. Rarely, there will be opportunities with less than a week’s notice, although we expect that the STARS may be unable to cover all of these requests. Typically, the staff will endeavor to have a month or more lead-time on requests for STARS.
    • Points: 25 total, with each point corresponding to roughly 1 hour of activity and students earning an average of 2.5 hours a week for 14 weeks of the semester. At least 15 points must be earned prior to fall break, leaving at most 10 for after fall break.


Attendance policy

CS STARS exists to build community among women researchers in CS and build and broaden our CS community. In addition, as outlined elsewhere, many of the CS STARS activities require collaboration and active hands-on engagement. In support of this, in person attendance in class is mandatory barring extenuating circumstances (e.g. illness, research conference travel). Please contact the course staff as soon as a conflict arises!


Q: Required? Is enrollment in this course required if I am a CS STAR? 

A: As the course time serves as dedicated planning for CS STARS activities, registration is required. 


Q: Schedule Conflict? I have a one-off schedule conflict, what should I do? Will my grade be  impacted? 

A: If extenuating circumstances arise, let the staff know as soon as possible!


Q: Communication? Is email the only way to communicate? 

A: All CS STARS will also have access to the UIUC CS Community slack for communication and coordination purposes.


Important Info Not Specific to the Course 

CS CARES and CS Values and Code of Conduct 

All members of the Illinois Computer Science department - faculty, staff, and students - are expected to adhere to the CS Values and Code of Conduct. The CS CARES Committee is available to serve as a resource to help people who are concerned about or experience a potential violation of the Code. If you experience such issues, please contact the CS CARES Committee. The Instructor(s) of this course are also available for issues related to this class.

Classroom Climate: Statement on Anti-Racism and Inclusivity 


The goals of this course can only be accomplished in a setting of mutual respect. We are committed to creating a classroom environment that welcomes all students,  regardless of their identities (e.g., race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs). We all have unconscious biases, and we will try to continually examine our judgments, words and actions to keep our biases in check and treat everyone fairly. We request that you will do the same. If  you feel comfortable, please let the course staff know if there is anything we can do to make sure everyone is encouraged to succeed in this class.  

Here’s the official UIUC text that has helpful info: 

The intent of this section is to raise student and instructor awareness of the ongoing threat of bias and  racism and of the need to take personal responsibility in creating an inclusive learning  environment. 


The Grainger College of Engineering is committed to the creation of an  anti-racist, inclusive community that welcomes diversity along a number of dimensions,  including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity and national origins, gender and gender  identity, sexuality, disability status, class, age, or religious beliefs. The College  recognizes that we are learning together in the midst of the Black Lives Matter  movement, that Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous voices and contributions have largely  either been excluded from, or not recognized in, science and engineering, and that both  overt racism and micro-aggressions threaten the well-being of our students and our  university community. 


The effectiveness of this course is dependent upon each of us to  create a safe and encouraging learning environment that allows for the open exchange  of ideas while also ensuring equitable opportunities and respect for all of us. Everyone is  expected to help establish and maintain an environment where students, staff, and  faculty can contribute without fear of personal ridicule, or intolerant or offensive  language. If you witness or experience racism, discrimination, micro-aggressions, or  other offensive behavior, you are encouraged to bring this to the attention of the course  director if you feel comfortable. You can also report these behaviors to the Bias  Assessment and Response Team (BART) ( Based on your  report, BART members will follow up and reach out to students to make sure they have  the support they need to be healthy and safe. If the reported behavior also violates  university policy, staff in the Office for Student Conflict Resolution may respond as well  and will take appropriate action. 

Disability-Related Accommodations 


The staff wants this course to be accessible to everyone beginning on the first day! In our experience, we  can’t count on timely official accommodation information. There is no expectation or need for  students to share personal information about why a particular accommodation would or  wouldn’t be helpful. And we can continue to iterate during the semester. If there’s something  that might get in the way of you being successful in the class - feel free to reach out!  

Here’s the official UIUC text that has helpful info (LINK):  

To obtain disability-related academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids, students with  disabilities must contact the course instructor and the Disability Resources and  Educational Services (DRES) as soon as possible. To contact DRES, you may visit 1207  S. Oak St., Champaign, call 333-4603, e-mail or go to If you are concerned you have a disability-related  condition that is impacting your academic progress, there are academic screening  appointments available that can help diagnose a previously undiagnosed disability. You  may access these by visiting the DRES website and selecting “Request an Academic  Screening'' at the bottom of the page. 

Wellbeing and Distress, and Statement on Mental Health


We care about you first and foremost as a human (not as a student). We hope for your wellbeing to  be your top priority and much more important than this class. We think of this wellbeing as being  able to continually meet your needs for sleep, food, exercise, socializing, relaxing, and emotional  support. Additionally, this sense of putting the human first is a focus we want to see in our community building efforts, as well! 

We’d be thrilled to be someone you reach out to if any of these aren’t going great. We can work  together to identify what resources might be helpful (some great UIUC resources are described  below). We want to destigmatize distress, but not normalize distress. It is unfortunately common to  experience distress in school and we want you to know that you’re not alone if you’re experiencing  some form of distress! When this happens, reaching out is essential! If we normalize this  distress, we might incorrectly assume that we shouldn’t reach out. (Oftentimes new  researchers get stuck and feel trapped – advisors want them to reach out! But we know it can  be scary for them! The same thing applies to us!)  

Here’s the official UIUC text that has helpful info:  

As members of the Illinois community, we each have a responsibility to express care and  concern for one another. If you come across a classmate whose behavior concerns you,  whether in regards to their well-being or yours, we encourage you to refer this behavior  to the Student Assistance Center (1-217-333-0050) or online at Based upon your report, staff in the  Student Assistance Center reaches out to students to make sure they have the support  they need to be healthy and safe. Further, as a Community of Care, we want to support  you in your overall wellness. We know that students sometimes face challenges that can  impact academic performance (examples include mental health concerns, food  insecurity, homelessness, personal emergencies). Should you find that you are  managing such a challenge and that it is interfering with your coursework, you are  encouraged to contact the Student Assistance Center (SAC) in the Office of the Dean of  Students for support and referrals to campus and/or community resources. The SAC  has a Dean on Duty available to see students who walk in, call, or email the office during  business hours. For mental health emergencies, you can call 911 or contact the  Counseling Center. 

Diminished mental health, including significant stress, mood changes, excessive worry,  substance/alcohol abuse, or problems with eating and/or sleeping can interfere with  optimal academic performance, social development, and emotional wellbeing. The University of Illinois offers a variety of confidential services including individual and  group counseling, crisis intervention, psychiatric services, and specialized screenings at  no additional cost. If you or someone you know experiences any of the above mental  health concerns, it is strongly encouraged to contact or visit any of the University’s  resources provided below. Getting help is a smart and courageous thing to do -- for  yourself and for those who care about you.  

Counseling Center: 217-333-3704, 610 East John Street Champaign, IL 61820  

McKinley Health Center: 217-333-2700, 1109 South Lincoln Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801 

Sexual Misconduct Reporting Obligation and Confidential Sources


If we learn about a situation in which a student is in danger of harming themselves or others, or  has been seriously harmed, we may be legally required to notify the Title IX Coordinator. If  students want to speak with someone confidentially, the following resources are available on  and off campus:  


Speaking with a confidential resource does not preclude students from making a formal report  to the Title IX Coordinator. Confidential resources can walk students through all of their 

reporting options. They can also provide students with information and assistance in accessing  academic, medical, and other support services they may need.  

Here’s the official UIUC text that has helpful info (LINK) 

The University of Illinois is committed to combating sexual misconduct. Faculty and  staff members are required to report any instances of sexual misconduct to the  University’s Title IX and Disability Office. In turn, an individual with the Title IX and  Disability Office will provide information about rights and options, including  accommodations, support services, the campus disciplinary process, and law  enforcement options. 

A list of the designated University employees who, as counselors,  confidential advisors, and medical professionals, do not have this reporting  responsibility and can maintain confidentiality, can be found here: 


Other information about  resources and reporting is available here:

Religious Observances 


For people of many religions, school conflicts with their religious holidays. Please let our staff know if  you need to miss a class for a religious holiday - we can create a plan so that you can get the  most out of the class. Even when religious holidays don’t fall on a class day, you might typically  take time off from work to celebrate. We’re happy to figure out alternate plans so that you can take  this time off! Just let us know!  

Here’s the official UIUC text that has helpful info: 

Illinois law requires the University to reasonably accommodate its students' religious  beliefs, observances, and practices in regard to admissions, class attendance, and the  scheduling of examinations and work requirements. You should examine this syllabus at  the beginning of the semester for potential conflicts between course deadlines and any  of your religious observances. If a conflict exists, you should notify your instructor of the  conflict and follow the procedure at 

care/resources/students/religious-observances/ to request appropriate  accommodations. This should be done in the first two weeks of classes. 

Academic Honesty 


It is unlikely you will run into situations where academic honesty is a concern in this course,  given it is primarily a space for collaboration and group planning. We will discuss some about  academic honesty as it pertains to research, as it is important to appropriately cite and  reference work. We hope you develop a deeper understanding of and commitment to academic  honesty during the class and help build that commitment into the community at UIUC CS.  

Here’s the official UIUC text that has helpful info:  

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Student Code should also be considered  as a part of this syllabus. Students should pay particular attention to Article 1, Part 4:  Academic Integrity. Read the Code at the following URL:

Academic dishonesty may result in a failing grade. Every student is expected to review  and abide by the Academic Integrity Policy: 401/. Ignorance is not an excuse for any academic dishonesty. It is your responsibility to  read this policy to avoid any misunderstanding. Do not hesitate to ask the instructor(s) if  you are ever in doubt about what constitutes plagiarism, cheating, or any other breach of  academic integrity. 

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) 

We plan to ensure that we provide the same FERPA protections to you as we provide to our students, future mentees, and other student community members we interact with. 

Here’s the official UIUC text that has helpful info:  

Any student who has suppressed their directory information pursuant to Family  Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) should self-identify to the instructor to  ensure protection of the privacy of their attendance in this course. See for more information on FERPA. 

Emergency Response 

Emergency response recommendations can be found at the following website: UIUC encourages you to review this website  and the campus building floor plans website within the first 10 days of class.


Course Summary:

Date Details Due