INCREASING FEMALE UNDERGRADUATE ENROLLMENTS IN COMPUTER SCIENCE/SOFTWARE ENGINEERING: THE SECRETS TO SUCCESS
California Polytechnic and State University (UNITED STATES)
Computer science departments in universities and colleges in the USA have seen dramatic decreases, or at best, stagnation in the percentage of female students enrolled in computer science/software engineering. Recently, few institutions have begun to implement strategic actions to reverse this trend.
The Department of Computer Science at Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo) has implemented a cadre of approaches in order to attract and retain (many) more women in Computer Science and Software Engineering. These approaches include evidence-based practices , as well as new tactics, as follows:
Instituting a unique first year (first quarter) course, featuring different “tracks” and reflecting student interests (e.g., robotics, games, visual art, music, mobile apps, cybersecurity) . All “tracks” employ project-based learning , with common learning outcomes. Each section provides a “big picture” view of computing.
Enriching mentoring . Peer mentoring, and well as mentoring between students and members of the Industrial Advisory Board.
Providing support for female students (cohorts of first year and upper division) to attend the Annual Grace Hopper Celebration.
Deploying the female students to recruit additional female students from their respective high schools (distributed and scalable approach). Roadshow materials , supplemented by personal experiences of our female majors, make captivating presentations.
During the last four years, Cal Poly’s enrollments in computer science and software engineering are monotonically increasing. Female students constitute 30% of first-year students in Software Engineering. In addition, the retention rate of students has increased to 90+%.
During the presentation I will provide details in regards to each component of the holistic and strategic plan to: recruit, motivate, educate and empower young women in computer science and Software Engineering. The approach and lessons learned can easily be applied to other Universities around the world.
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