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Recruiting, Retaining and Graduating more Women in Computer Science and Math

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session I

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Perry Fizzano Western Washington University

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Perry Fizzano earned his BS degree in Computer Science from Widener University and his MS and PhD in Computer Science from Dartmouth College. He had stints in academia and industry prior to joining WWU in 2005 and becoming chair in 2012. His research interests are in optimization, bioinformatics, information retrieval and computer science education.

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David Hartenstine Western Washington University

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We report on the CS/M Scholars Program which is supported by an NSF S-STEM grant that began in 2011. The program aims to increase the number of women graduating with degrees in Computer Science or Mathematics. It is well known that women are underrepresented in these fields nationally and this is also the case at our university. Our efforts include targeted recruitment of female high school students with a record of academic achievement and leadership potential. In addition to providing scholarships, student success is bolstered by required first-year seminars, early advising, and monthly events focused on professional development and expanding awareness of opportunities. All of these activities have fostered a tight-knit learning community and provided ample opportunities for peer mentoring and networking with alumnae.

Because we focus on recruiting first-year students and retaining them through graduation the program has grown from nine freshmen in the first year to over forty students now who range from freshmen to seniors. Our recruitment efforts have become more successful as the program has grown which we attribute to the active involvement of current students in recruiting and a record of the program’s accomplishments. Retention is higher than expected; moreover, retention rates are increasing. Students are excelling academically and have become visible, successful female members of male-dominated departments. This is having a positive effect on the cultures of the departments which is in turn encouraging other female students.

Herein, we provide an overview of the CS/M Scholars Program and highlight the features that may be adaptable to other institutions without external funding. We report on statistics for recruitment, retention and graduation; share our ideas and experiences for impactful monthly events; explain how conference participation has been transformative for both students and their departments; and discuss funding conference participation with few institutional resources.

We view our work so far as a pilot project in part because the program took four years to grow to its full size. We have recently submitted a new S-STEM proposal that, if funded, will initiate a design and development project that will include quantitative and qualitative assessment of the achievement of the program’s ultimate goals, which include shifting the demographics of graduates at our institution and observing continued employment of CS/M Scholars in their field.

Fizzano, P., & Hartenstine, D. (2016, June), Recruiting, Retaining and Graduating more Women in Computer Science and Math Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27337

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