In progress
Rita Manco Powell


Activity Start Date 
September 15, 2013
Target Completion Date 
August 29, 2016
Goal statement 
Make computer science accessible to ALL students. Increase participation of women in the undergraduate major to 40%. Increase the participation of underrepresented minorities to 15%. Penn Emerging Scholars Program is a peer-led team learning program that gives freshman undeclared majors who are interested in computer science to work on algorithmic problems with peer leaders and learn more about the major.


University of Pennsylvania
Computer and Information Science Department
Rita Powell
Activity Description 

Freshmen undeclared majors, who are interested in learning more about computer science and math to see if these majors are a fit for them, are invite to apply to a peer-led team learning workshop program that meets weekly for 90 minutes for 8 weeks. The students solve logical, algorithmic problems in small groups under the guidance of two peer leaders. The workshop problems are developed by 2 PhD students from computer science and math who meet weekly for one hour with the peer leaders to review the problems of that week.

Progress On Activity 
Two workshops are held each semester. This is an ongoing program. We just completed the third year of the program. 121 students completed Penn Emerging Scholars Program (PESP) in the first two years, and we recruited 64 students into the major, including 32 NET new women and 7 underrepresented minority students.
Lessons Learned 
A peer led team learning program can help a school make computer science accessible to all students. PESP creates a community for students that lasts long after the workshop ends. At the end of each semester we hold a Reunion party and invite all previous PESP participants. This end of semester party helps us nurture our thriving community. We are working on a web site in which we will post our PESP problems to make it easy for others to create an Emerging Scholars Program at their school.
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