The Emerging Scholars Program (ESP) at Columbia University

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Hello from the Emerging Scholars Program (ESP) at Columbia University! ESP is a peer-led workshop designed to encourage talented students to stay in the CS major after introductory classes. The goal of ESP is to show students that CS is necessarily a collaborative activity and that it involves much more than just programming. ESP's target audience includes students enrolled in Introduction to Computer Science classes who have not yet declared a major, but are contemplating CS.

ESP follows the Peer-Led Team Learning teaching paradigm. Since the workshops are led by another student rather than a professor or TA, the sessions can be more interactive. Each week, small groups meet with a peer leader who presents one or more problems from a variety of CS fields, from robotics to natural language processing. Students work as a group to analyze the problems and brainstorm solutions. 

Fifty-seven students have completed ESP in nine different sections since its founding in 2008. Of those students who have participated in ESP and declared majors, 45% of them have declared CS. One ESP participant has gone on to win the Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship, and two ESP assistants have gone on to receive CRA-W summer research positions. One ESP peer leader now works full time at Microsoft.

ESP receives consistently positive student feedback. ESP student Diana Cimino explained: "Through the varied workshops, I was exposed to interesting  people and ideas, realizing the breadth of an entirely fascinating subject in which I had no previous experience." The majority of students rated their peer leaders as "fantastic" and would "definitely" recommend ESP to other students.

Visit Columbia's ESP program at http://www.cs.columbia.edu/esp and for more about Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL) check out the great resources at: http://pltlcs.org.

Joshua Gordon is a PhD student in computer science at Columbia University.