Code4TheCulture celebrates, supports Black, Latinx students in Khoury College


Code4TheCulture is a Northeastern-based club to support Black and Latinx students in the Khoury College of Computer Science. Photo courtesy of Sandra Kwawu.

Jessica Silverman, deputy campus editor

When second-year graduate student Betty Mesfin first came to Northeastern to study computer science, she said she was immediately met with feelings of isolation and imposter syndrome.

Frustrated with the lack of diversity in her classes and absence of spaces for people who looked like her, she went to her adviser, Ashley Armand, to express these concerns. And she learned she wasn’t alone.

“When I came [to Northeastern] it felt really isolating,” Mesfin said. “When we were looking around and seeing the makeup of our program and trying to create a community of others who not only looked like you but just someone who could help you or someone you could look to or relate to it was very far and few.”

Her adviser told Mesfin that she had heard these concerns from other students before, specifically from her student Xavier Husser, a third-year graduate student pursuing his master’s degree in cybersecurity. In his 200-person classes, he found that he was the only Black male. 

With the help of their adviser, Husser and Mesfin connected outside the classroom. In the fall of 2020, they founded Code4TheCulture, a club designed to give them the support system they were so desperately looking for. 

“In terms of diversity in tech for communities that were underrepresented, there was not a lot of diversity with the students,” Husser said. “That experience made us feel as though we should do something to help future students coming in from similar backgrounds to have some sense of community.”

Code4TheCulture is an organization for graduate students in Khoury College of Computer Sciences who identify as Black and Latinx, and serves as both a social and networking community to help students succeed in their field. 

Of the club’s 40 members, many are pursuing computer science degrees in Khoury College’s Align program, which is specifically for students, who may or may not have a background in computer science, to break into the technology industry. Along with addressing issues that stem from a lack of community, Husser and Mesfin created Code4TheCulture to help tackle systemic flaws within the program itself.

“One of the interesting things is that Align specifically was created in order to be able to create diversity in tech, but based on observation, was that even with the sprinkles [of diversity] there are still issues within the program,” Mesfin said. “Unfortunately, what we noticed based [on] our own experiences and speaking to each other as peers, was that the people that were dropping or transferring to other programs happened to be people of color.” 

To help support members and ensure their success in the field, Code4TheCulture offers a variety of programs and resources for graduate students on all Northeastern campuses, including resumé and technical interview workshops, speaker series events and its Resource Universe, which includes materials for homework and career help. 

While the club’s programming is currently tailored for graduate students, it is working on opening up to undergraduate students as well, said Vice President of Code4TheCulture Ulises Rodriguez, a first-year graduate student studying computer science. The club hosts a weekly co-working space Zoom open to all Khoury students, where TAs can provide additional support for members to do their homework and discuss topics they may be struggling with in their classes. 

Rodriguez is happy that such a supportive community exists for him as he pursues his degree.

“I think bringing all these groups into tech is extremely important because we see systems now that are discriminating against certain groups already,” Rodriguez said. “I think that our club specifically provides that kind of community, and we lift each other up rather than compete against each other, and I think it’s definitely been a community I’m proud to be a part of.”

In addition to the events and programming the club holds, the group works to advocate for its members through partnerships with technology companies. The club worked with Dell and secured a $9,000 donation to Khoury College and $1,000 to the club to fund scholarships for low-income, underrepresented minority students. According to Rodriguez, Code4TheCulture plans to work with Spotify for future events and to further connect its members to these organizations. 

Recent reports finding bias and racism in computer algorithms make supporting diversity in the technology field all the more important, club members said. As technology becomes more immersed in our daily lives, the club said it wants to foster a community of success and support to ensure that these flaws in systems are improved and corrected.

“When you Google criminals, the majority of people that show up are Black or Latinx, and these things are errors that were left when building this kind of algorithm,” said Sandra Kwawu, president of Code4TheCulture and a graduate student graduating in 2023 studying computer science. “When you look into the people that build this kind of algorithm that we use on a daily basis, there is a lack of representation. So instead of us letting these things happen where we later come and correct them, we want to be a part of building technology with diversity and inclusion in mind.”

According to data from, only about 5% of computer scientists in the United States are Latinx and 1% are Black. Code4TheCulture looks to inspire future generations of underrepresented groups to break into the tech field. The group has talked to students of all ages, from elementary to high school, about what it means to be a computer scientist in the hopes that these students can feel motivated to break into the tech field.

“That’s why we do what we do,” Husser said. “To make sure that people can envision themselves in these career paths and build a future they can see themselves in.” 

Moving forward, the club hopes to continue to open up programming and collaborate with undergraduate organizations on campus. They also plan to establish a solid alumni network that can help members after graduation and provide them with the scholarships and financial support they need to succeed in their careers. Mesfin is looking forward to seeing how the club continues to grow. 

“Overall, coming from somebody who created something from nothing, I think what we’ve seen in Code4TheCulture is really exciting. Obviously, it’s still in its infancy, but I feel like there’s so much potential and so much growth,” she said. “Code4TheCuture is on an upward trajectory and I can’t wait to see what is going to happen and how it is going to have a positive impact for Black and Latinx students here.”