ColorCoded: Fostering a vibrant community for students of color in computing at U-M

Student organization ColorCoded offers a space for students of color in computing disciplines across U-M to come together, form community, and support each other in education, professional development, and beyond.
8 students stand smiling at the camera. They are standing in front of a black wall with the AfroTech logo printed in white
ColorCoded members at AfroTech 2023, the largest Black tech conference in the U.S.

ColorCoded, a student organization at the University of Michigan, is creating new spaces for minority students in computer science to connect and succeed. The organization has seen tremendous growth since its launch two years ago, bringing together over 100 members from across computing disciplines to build a community of support for students of color.

With Black students making up just 4 percent of the student body at U-M, many who come to Michigan end up feeling isolated or as though they don’t belong.

“It can be really intimidating and discouraging to walk into a classroom and see only a handful of students who look like you,” said Daijour Williams, co-founder and co-president of ColorCoded. “We wanted to make a welcoming space where students don’t ever feel like they’re the ‘only one’ in the room.”

While student organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) have sought to create opportunities for Black students in engineering to form community, there have been few efforts that specifically target computing disciplines, an area in which Black students can face especially daunting obstacles in accessing resources and thriving.

The ColorCoded logo

ColorCoded is aiming to fill that gap by providing a space for minority students in computer science, information, and related disciplines to come together, network, and share opportunities for professional development and academic success.

“In STEM fields, there is not a lot of emphasis on bonding and community building, and in computer science especially, there are a lot of barriers to entry,” Daijour described. “Our goal is to give minority students, and Black students especially, a strong foundation for breaking into the industry.”

Simone Roberts,  Chair of Executive Affairs for ColorCoded, reiterated this, saying, “We want to make sure our members are comfortable in professional computing spaces and know that they can and should be in those spaces.”

Formed in 2021, the group’s leaders saw ColorCoded as an opportunity to form a welcoming, inclusive environment for computing students of color at U-M, as well as organize activities to support their academic and professional success. 

Now with a membership of around 120 students, ranging from first-years to graduate students, ColorCoded is addressing a clear need on campus. 

The group’s activities over the past few years have included fun community-building events like movie viewings, as well as academic support, such as coding practice sessions. They have also organized a number of professional development opportunities where students are able to engage directly with company recruiters, along with sessions with industry leaders to give students valuable insight on entering the tech workforce.

“We want to help connect students to resources and information they might not have had access to before coming to U-M,” said Daijour.

Several students sit in a classroom on their laptops. Other students circulate around the room to assist them.
A recent workshop hosted by ColorCoded.

A cornerstone of ColorCoded’s annual programming is attendance at AfroTech, the largest Black tech conference in the U.S. The group has been able to steadily increase its delegation at the conference each year, with 10 members attending the 2023 iteration in November.

With over 20,000 total attendees, including industry leaders and corporate recruiters, AfroTech gives ColorCoded’s members access to a vibrant community and unparalleled networking opportunities.

“Going to AfroTech has been really valuable for our members,” said Daijour, “A lot of students come back from the conference with internships or job offers.”

In a context where Black students are underrepresented and often arrive without the same experience and resources as their more privileged peers, these types of professional opportunities are paramount.

A lack of prior exposure to coding or networking opportunities can lead to disproportionate struggles for minority students, particularly in a competitive academic environment like U-M. And, according to ColorCoded members, the university has room for improvement in addressing these disparities.

“Computer science is different from other disciplines because of the skew of resources that people have coming into the program,” said Simone. “Classes are taught with the expectation that everyone has the same resources, which is not always the case.”

For students with little or no prior computing experience, fostering connections with other students of color and professionals in the field is crucial in enabling them to develop the skills and resources they need to thrive at U-M and beyond. Fulfilling this goal is core to ColorCoded’s mission, as they push for a more inclusive environment and opportunities that account for students’ diverse backgrounds.

Dozens of students sit in the grass on Central Campus watching a movie projected onto a large screen.
A recent movie screening organized by ColorCoded

Looking ahead, ColorCoded is focused on solidifying the group’s presence at U-M, continuing to build on their successes and deepening ties with other groups across campus. Another aim will be to build more partnerships with companies to grow the organization’s professional network.

“We hope to continue to expand our attendance at AfroTech and develop more relationships with corporate sponsors as well as other organizations on campus,” said Simone. 

Daijour emphasized this as well, saying, “We want to establish a permanent presence on campus and make sure that the connections and resources we build are here for a long time.”

In just a few years, ColorCoded has already made a significant mark at U-M, forging a space for students of color to connect and support each other, as well as developing pathways for the transfer of knowledge and resources to new generations of students. In the process, ColorCoded is helping to make U-M a more inclusive place and empowering minority students to succeed in a dynamic, competitive field.   

For more information about ColorCoded, you can message the organization’s leaders at You can also follow ColorCoded on Instagram at @colorcodedumich.