Dr. Raja Kushalnagar, director of the B.S. in Information Technology and M.S. in Accessible Human-Centered Computing programs, has been recognized by the Computing Research Association (CRA) for his efforts to steer students into careers studying computing. He will receive the 2024 Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentoring Award at a national computing conference later this year.

The CRA award recognizes faculty members who have provided undergraduates with research experiences along with guidance on applying and attending graduate school to continue their computing research. As Principal Investigator for a Research Experience for Undergraduates Site for Accessible Information and Communication Technologies, held each summer at Gallaudet, Kushalnagar is a leader in bringing students into the field. He also serves as a Board of Director Member for CRA’s Distributed Research Experience for Undergraduates, which encourages students from underrepresented populations to pursue computing.

“Nationwide, deaf students and professionals are an invisible underrepresented minority. I engage students in research experiences through diverse teams and learning styles to increase the number of deaf students and professionals to develop inclusive applications and interfaces,” Kushalnagar says. “We imagine a future in which people with diverse aural or visual abilities enjoy equal access to information and communication through accessible technology design and policies.”

Man with dark hair and glasses smiles.
Dr. Raja Kushalnagar has mentored 130 undergraduates. Above, he observes as two of those students present research on campus last summer.

Over the past 13 years, Kushalnagar has supervised research projects that have involved 130 deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing students. His approach of assembling groups with diverse auditory abilities and their allies and providing them with hands-on experiences in accessible computing has led to more researchers and developers with this invaluable collaborative background.

He has also mentored 10 deaf and hard of hearing masters’ and doctoral students through service on their dissertation committees. He has collaboratively published 63 refereed papers with his mentees, and some have received best paper awards, or honorary mentions. He has also provided mentorship in navigating graduate school by sitting on five mentees’ dissertation committees at other institutions.  

Two of his deaf mentees — Dr. Abraham Glasser and Dr. James Waller — have since joined the Gallaudet faculty as assistant professors. Another deaf mentee, Dr. Matthew Seita, has a postdoctoral position at Gallaudet.

“I always like to see his perspectives on different topics and watch how he applies his vision and big-picture motivation to his day-to-day work,” says Glasser, who appreciates that their relationship has evolved over the years. Glasser credits Kushalngar with helping him develop into a researcher, as well as a mentor for students. “He expertly aligns opportunities with students’ interests, and he has mastered setting up a pipeline for students to go to graduate school and get jobs,” he adds. “He knows how to facilitate that from start to finish.”

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