Chad Jenkins receives Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award

Jenkins strives to improve the state of diversity in computing and robotics, with the goal of achieving equal opportunity for all.
har Jenkins
Prof. Chad Jenkins

Prof. Chad Jenkins has received the University of Michigan’s Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award. The award recognizes faculty whose service goes above and beyond their regular duties and contributes to the development of a culturally and ethnically diverse campus community.

Jenkins strives to improve the state of diversity in computing and robotics with the goal of realizing excellence in scholarship and equal opportunity for all. He is currently Associate Director for Undergraduate Programs in the Michigan Robotics Institute, leading efforts to modernize career pathways into robotics and AI. He led development of a new course in Robotics, ROB 101: Computational Linear Algebra, which teaches first-year students how mathematics and computation are unified for reasoning about data and making discoveries about the world. The course gives life to linear equations and numerical methods through the lens of robotics and contemporary intelligent systems and their compelling applications.

Jenkins and three collaborators in the course’s design earned the 2021 Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize for the course.

“We know we’re not training the right people to do the right things ethically and across backgrounds right now,” Jenkins told ASEE Prism in a feature they published on ROB 101. “To have more diversity [among the developers] and in the executive suite, you need to have diversity in the classroom.” 

Jenkins has invested significant effort in the past year advocating for equity in computing, with a guest column in VentureBeat and shared profile in the New York Times with other Black leaders in AI and robotics. He is the founding faculty advisor to the student group Computing4All, which supports people of color studying computer science. 

For the past four years, he has led students from underrepresented backgrounds to participate in the Tapia Conference for the Celebration of Diversity in Computing. He is an active mentor of undergraduate projects, including hosting a large number of summer interns from diverse backgrounds (including from the U-M SROP program) and independent study projects. He is the faculty advisor of the group Computing4All, a social group to foster participation in computing by underrepresented minorities, and he served as Chair and a founding member of the University of Michigan College of Engineering Dean’s Advisory Committee on Faculty of Color.

Jenkins’ research in mobile manipulation robots and human-robot interaction has been supported through a number of prestigious awards, including a PECASE award, an NSF CAREER Award, an ONR Young Investigator Award, and a Sloan Research Fellowship. In 2021, Jenkins was elected a Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI). In 2020, he was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for his scientifically or socially distinguished efforts on behalf of the advancement of science. In 2019, he was named a council member for the CRA Computing Community Consortium. In 2018, he joined the Board of the CRA Committee on Widening Participation in Computing Research (CRA-WP). He serves as editor-in-chief for the ACM Transactions on Human-Robot Interaction.