2015 NEXT Award Commendation Page: University of Washington


Department of Computer Science & Engineering

Recipient of the 2015 NCWIT Extension Services Transformation Award

Grand Prize ($100,000)


NCWIT recognizes the University of Washington’s Department of Computer Science for excellence in promoting women’s participation in computing with the inaugural 2015 NEXT Award. UW’s Department of Computer Science began working with NCWIT Extension Services for Undergraduate Programs in 2008, became an NCWIT Pacesetter in 2009, and have participated in the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing program. In 2008, their program graduated 18% women, about the national average. In that year, they set a goal of increasing women’s participation in their major to 30%. In 2013, they exceeded this goal; women now make up a third of their majors. UW also graduated a computer science class with 29% women in 2013. This is almost twice the national average for computer science programs.

These accomplishments are the result of strategic, well-planned recruiting and retention efforts. They conduct multi-pronged outreach to K-12 schools in their region, such as providing professional development, networking opportunities, and other support to high school teachers. Regional K-12 students benefit from camps, campus visits, computing open houses, and coding competitions. These programs serve all students interested in computing, but they are implemented and designed with girls and other underrepresented students in mind.

The UW program does an excellent job of retaining its majors, including women, with a strong sense of community and inclusion in the Department. A key strategy has been redesigning the major’s introductory courses so that they are accessible to a range of students. This includes hiring strong, engaging faculty to teach these courses and using well-trained undergraduate teaching assistants, including many women. The introductory courses make use of assignments “that illustrate a broad range of applications and are nifty enough to share with family and friends.” They also “host weekly exploration sessions featuring faculty research so students can begin to learn more about the department on a broader scale.” The sustainability of their programs is strengthened by including responsibility for diversity and outreach efforts within the job duties of several staff members, and by actively pursuing external funding. The University of Washington has grown an inclusive, welcoming community that spans beyond the walls of the university and has demonstrably advanced women’s meaningful participation in computing.

Collaborative Team:

  • Professor Ed Lazowska, Bill & Melinda Gates Chair of Computer Science & Engineering
  • Ms. Allison Obourn, Lecturer
  • Ms. Crystal Eney, Director of Student Services

Extension Services Consultants:

  • Dr. Rebecca Dohrman (current)
  • Dr. Laurie Collins


For more information on NCWIT's Extension Services for Undergraduate Programs, visit ncwit.org/extensionservices.