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Attracting And Retaining Women In Computer Science And Engineering: Evaluating The Results

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

The Impact of Curriculum on the Retention of Women Students

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.297.1 - 12.297.11



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Paper Authors

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David Keathly University of North Texas


Robert Akl University of North Texas

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Robert Akl received the B.S. degree in computer science from Washington University in St. Louis, in 1994, and the B.S., M.S. and D.Sc. degrees in electrical engineering in 1994, 1996, and 2000, respectively. He also received the Dual Degree Engineering Outstanding Senior Award from Washington University in 1993. He is a senior member of IEEE. Dr. Akl is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of North Texas, Department of Computer Science and Engineering. In 2002, he was an Assistant Professor at the University of New Orleans, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. From October 2000 to December 2001, he was a senior systems engineer at Comspace Corporation, Coppell, TX.

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Ryan Garlick University of North Texas

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Ryan Garlick received the B.B.A. degree in finance from the University
of Texas in 1995. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer
Science from Texas State University and Southern Methodist University in
1998 and 2003, respectively. Since 2005, he has been a Visiting
Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and
Engineering at The University of North Texas. Dr. Garlick also consults
in the field of electronic commerce.

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Attracting and Retaining Women in Computer Science and Engineering: Evaluating the Results Abstract

Computer science and engineering communities have been exploring a variety of activities and techniques to attract and retain more students, especially women and minorities, to computer science and computer engineering degree programs1. This paper briefly describes the efforts and results of a plan for actively recruiting young women into undergraduate computer engineering and computer science programs hosted by the University of North Texas (UNT). It also describes a series of activities aimed at improving the retention rate of students already in our programs, particularly during the freshman year. Such recruitment and retention efforts are critical to the country’s efforts to increase the number of engineering professionals, and are a priority for the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) Department at UNT.

We initially designed a three-part plan to achieve our recruitment and retention goals: • Sponsorship of portable and mobile summer computer engineering robotics camps for middle and high-school women students, coordinating with the regional Girl Scouts councils and other organizations to help with the recruitment; • Creation of an Ambassador program using young women currently enrolled in the upper division of current computer science and computer engineering programs as a form of outreach to area high schools and junior colleges; and • Expansion of our successful undergraduate mentoring program by using the Ambassador cohort mentioned above as mentors for incoming freshman and first-year transfer women entering our programs.

This paper will focus primarily on the summer camp program and present an analysis of the results we have seen to date after 2 years of camp activities. Results from student surveys and parent surveys will be presented. The paper concludes with recommended changes and improvements in the program, as well as a discussion of adaptations that would create programs suitable for implementation at other institutions as well as programs aimed at a different target population.

The three phases previously enumerated each build upon currently accepted educational practices. The robotics summer camp in particular used problem-based learning approaches, similar to those described in The Power of Problem-Based Learning2. This study clearly demonstrates the significant benefits of teaching students how to think by using a problem-based approach. We also developed a mobile laboratory so that the summer camp can be held at several locations, thus broadening and expanding the reach of the camps to traditionally underserved populations and geographical regions. Similarly, both the ambassador and mentoring programs derive from research showing how the recruitment and retention of women in engineering- related fields can be increased by providing opportunities to develop student-to-student relationships3, 4.

Keathly, D., & Akl, R., & Garlick, R. (2007, June), Attracting And Retaining Women In Computer Science And Engineering: Evaluating The Results Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2173

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