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Exploring Factors Influencing the Continued Interest in a Computer Science Major

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Design Thinking and Creativity

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Catherine T. Amelink Virginia Tech

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Dr. Amelink is Assistant Vice Provost for Learning Systems Innovation and Effectiveness, Virginia Tech. She is also an affiliate faculty member in the Departments of Engineering Education and Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Virginia Tech.

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Kirsten A. Davis Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Kirsten Davis is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she also completed her master's degree in Higher Education. She is the graduate assistant for the Rising Sophomore Abroad Program, a global engineering course and study abroad program for first year engineering students. Her primary research interests are engineering study abroad, developing intercultural competency in engineering students, and international higher education.

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Barbara G. Ryder Virginia Tech

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Dr. Barbara G. Ryder is a emerita faculty member in the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech, where she held the J. Byron Maupin Professorship in Engineering. She received her A.B. degree in Applied Mathematics from Brown University (1969), her Masters degree in Computer Science from Stanford University (1971) and her Ph.D. degree in Computer Science at Rutgers University (1982). From 2008-2015 she served as Head of the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech, and retired on September 1, 2016. Dr. Ryder served on the faculty of Rutgers from 1982-2008. She also worked in the 1970s at AT&T Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ. Dr. Ryder's research interests on static/dynamic program analyses for object-oriented and dynamic programming languages and systems, focus on usage in practical software tools for ensuring the quality and security of industrial-strength applications.

Dr. Ryder became a Fellow of the ACM in 1998, and received the ACM SIGSOFT Influential Educator Award (2015), the Virginia AAUW Woman of Achievement Award (2014), and the ACM President's Award (2008). She received a Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences Computer Science Distinguished Alumni Award (2016), was named a CRA-W Distinguished Professor (2004), and was given the ACM SIGPLAN Distinguished Service Award (2001). Dr. Ryder led the Department of Computer Science team that tied nationally for 2nd place in the 2016 NCWIT NEXT Awards.She has been an active leader in ACM (e.g., Vice President 2010-2012, Secretary-Treasurer 2008-2010; ACM Council 2000-2008; General Chair, FCRC 2003; Chair ACM SIGPLAN (1995-97)). She serves currently as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Computer Research Association (2014-2020,1998-2001). Dr. Ryder is an editorial board member of ACM Transactions on Software Engineering Methodology and has served as an editorial board member of ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems, IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, Software: Practice and Experience, and Science of Computer Programming.

Dr. Ryder led the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech team that tied nationally for 2nd place in the 2016 NCWIT NEXT Awards. She was a founding member of the NCWIT VA/DC Aspirations in Computing Awards. Dr. Ryder has advised 16 Ph.D. and 3 M.S. students to completion of their theses; she has supervised the research of 4 postdocs and more than 30 undergraduate researchers at Rutgers and Virginia Tech.

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Margaret O'Neil Ellis Virginia Tech

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Assistant Professor of Practice, Computer Science Department, Virginia Tech

My research interests include examining ways to improve engineering educational environments to facilitate student success, especially among underrepresented groups.

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For this research paper, our study used a qualitative approach to better understand factors that impact the retention of students in computer science majors and minors at one large research university and whether there were differences by gender. With increasing industry demand for graduates with computer science degrees, it is important for universities to identify methods for attracting and retaining students, particularly women, in computer science. Interactionalist theory which suggests student retention to a degree is based on personal and environmental factors provided the framework guiding our study. In addition, career certainty models allowed us to investigate how experiences at the undergraduate level influenced career interest in computer science. Questions included prompts to reflect on environmental and personal factors that sustained or diminished interest in continuing within a computer science degree and ultimately a career. Significant results suggest that females and males have a similar undergraduate experience and our results indicate that across institutions there are actionable steps that faculty members and graduate teaching assistants can take to positively influence career interest in computer science for undergraduates. Results also underscore steps that faculty can take to design educational approaches within their classrooms that would sustain interest in a computer science degree among both males and females.

Amelink, C. T., & Davis, K. A., & Ryder, B. G., & Ellis, M. O. (2018, June), Exploring Factors Influencing the Continued Interest in a Computer Science Major Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30488

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