Crystal City, Virginia
April 29, 2018
April 29, 2018
May 2, 2018
Diversity and Computing
Extension Services for Undergraduate Programs (ES-UP) at the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) employs a multi-pronged, systemic approach to increasing the enrollment and retention of women in undergraduate computing departments. ES-UP’s efforts to date have resulted in significantly more women graduating with bachelor’s degrees in computing; combined, the departments served by ES-UP have sustained a 6% climb in graduations of women, while national figures remain flat.
ES-UP advocates for improving the environment for all students using research based strategies that correspond to the following six components of the ES-UP Systemic Change Model. (1) Strategic Recruiting prioritizes recruitment activities that provide the greatest return with the least investment of resources, for example, those that target qualified students who are available to declare a major within a few years with carefully crafted messages that appeal to women’s current interests and goals and to the concerns of influencers such as parents, teachers, and advisors. ES-UP recommends retention practices that are mainstreamed into the experiences of all students, rather than initiatives such as women’s support groups that may help in the short term but benefit only those students who choose to participate. Retaining through (2) Inclusive Pedagogy includes practices such as collaborative learning to encourage teamwork and a sense of community, and use of personally meaningful and socially relevant assignments that make clear the application of computing to real world problems. Retaining through (3) Curriculum includes providing multiple pathways into the major with options to ensure that students entering with little computing experience can succeed, and offering minors or tracks that align with or develop career goals. Providing (4) Student Support by encouraging everyday student-student and student-faculty interaction increases student engagement and fosters a sense of belonging. Examples include mentoring programs, research experiences for undergraduates (REUs), and student participation in computing conferences. (5) Institutional Support in the form of high-level administrative commitment ensures the public endorsement and access to resources necessary for implementing systemic change. And finally, comprehensive (6) Evaluation guides current and future efforts by identifying what works and what doesn’t, and provides data needed to garner support from and demonstrate success to administrators and colleagues.
This paper describes the ES-UP Systemic Change Model, presents evidence of its effectiveness, shares innovative examples from successful ES-UP client departments, and highlights relevant resources and strategies that undergraduate computing departments can implement themselves. Many of ES-UP’s recommendations are broadly applicable to engineering and other STEM departments where women are under-represented.
Achenbach, G., & Barker, L. J., & Thompson, L. (2018, April), A Systemic Approach to Recruiting and Retaining Women in Undergraduate Computing Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia. https://peer.asee.org/29502
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