First Course Experience

Charlie McDowell, Associate Dean, Professor

Organization Name 
University of California - Santa Cruz

To reach our Pacesetters goal, the University of California-Santa Cruz will conduct a summer camp for middle school girls, support the Bay Area Affiliate of the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Award, make regular visits to local area middle and high schools with a “Road Show,” work to improve the “Introduction to Computer Science” course and bring it into alignment with the national “Computer Science: Principles” course, and further develop our overall effort to recruit and retain more 1st year females in CS which we have named, “Project Awesome.” We recognize the importance of working towards goals that will generate long term results and these projects will do so by educating women about how a career in computing can be compatible with their personal goals and interests, introducing alternative programming courses, launching an information brochure, inviting female students to information sessions that also is informative about the nature of a CS major, and hosting social events that will change the image of the CS community.

Hesham Ali, Dean of College of Information Science and Technology

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University of Nebraska Omaha

The University of Nebraska-Omaha set a goal to increase the percentage of female students enrolled in each of our five programs. We will implement two strategies to attract women to our programs. First, we are designating tutors for women in our current intro courses who have little experience with programming.  We are planning to impement NCWIT promising practices for these introductory courses to teach our students computing principles as well as provide encouragement for them to consider technology as a potential major. We expect that some students will be attracted to our interdisciplinary majors such as IT Innovation and Bioinformatics.  Second, we intend to pair female students with professional men and women who will mentor and help them develop skills, identify university/college resources, and learn about career opportunities in information technology. We plan to develop a learning community to connect and encourage these women as they pursue IT degrees.

Crystal Eney, Director of Student Services

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University of Washington

For our 2013-2015 Pacesetters goals, The University of Washington continues recruitment efforts focused on early-college women: recruiting a higher percentage of incoming female freshmen to UW CSE, and retaining strong women throughout our introductory programming course series. 

In the past two years, we greatly increased our outreach to middle school and high school women through our DawgBytes program.  DawgBytes includes summer camps, programming competitions, and hosting an NCWIT Aspirations Award Ceremony at our university.  We also reach out to influential teachers through our Inspirational Teachers Banquet and CS4HS (Computer Science for High Schools) workshops every summer, encouraging the K-12 community to cultivate technical interests in their students, and to send their strong men and women to our program.

Finally, more narrowly, we continue to work on our initial Pacesetters goal of retaining women in our introductory programming sequence, and encouraging them to pursue a CSE major.  Of high-performing students in intro programming, women are less likely to continue to the second course in the series than men. We are committed to solving this problem, and encouraging more to continue into the field of computing.  Our approach includes many of the efforts detailed in our initial Pacesetters plan: targeted outreach from Teaching Assistants to high-achieving women, emails from advising staff directly to the women doing well in the course, and invited teas where strong performing women have an opportunity to talk with young women in industry, faculty, and staff in our department. 

By expanding our focus to include middle school and high school outreach, along with ongoing retention efforts in our introductory programming courses, we hope to move the needle ever closer to achieving and surpassing our goal of 30% women in CSE.

Natasha Veltri, Assistant Professor

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University of Tampa

The Information & Technology Management department at the University of Tampa offers two majors: Management Information Systems (MIS) accredited by ABET’s Computing Accreditation Commission using the Information Systems criteria and Financial Enterprise Systems (FES). We joined the NCWIT Pacesetters program in January 2013 to use best practices to increase enrollment of females in the MIS program by 50 percent. We are using an in-reach strategy by focusing on female students who are already at the University of Tampa. On campus events introduce students to career opportunities in IT, dispel stereotypes and showcase successful female IT professionals.  Partnerships with local information systems professional associations provide many opportunities for student interaction with the IT community and female role models. Our faculty members and student leaders of the UT Technology Club serve as ambassadors and discuss the MIS major with other students in classes and on campus. Additionally, professors invite female guest speakers to introductory MIS classes and personally encourage female students to pursue career opportunities in the IT field. We hope that these efforts will allow us to spread the word about opportunities in IT field, and identify and provide one-on-one encouragement to students to pursue IT-related majors.

Cheryl Swanier

Cheryl Swanier, Associate Professor

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Fort Valley State University

At Fort Valley State University, it is our goal to recruit students in computing via First Course Experience and Community Outreach. We have computing faculty to speak to freshmen students, particularly those who are undecided majors about their future aspirations and give a presentation on the interesting things that computer scientists create and are able to achieve, instead of focusing only on programming. This includes introducing the students to websites and mobile applications. In addition, we are working with the local middle school and high school to peak their interest in computing in an effort to create a pipeline from secondary education to higher education in computing. This is being accomplished by providing topic specific workshops such as Introduction to Robotics or Website Development. These workshops are held at FVSU to give students a memorable on-campus experience. We believe sparking the interests of females this way will help the success of our recruitment process.

Jim Cohoon

Jim Cohoon, Professor

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University of Virginia

Computer Science at the University of Virginia is committed to an environment where diverse, capable, inspired individuals can collaborate to learn and advance knowledge. Our reasoning is trifold: we wish to be a model in reaping and sharing the benefits of diversity; we seek to enhance our intellectual and creative environment; and we expect to better produce happy, capable, and broadly-educated graduates.

To support our vision we have three undergraduate programs: B.A. and B. S. degrees in Computer Science, and a B.S. degree in Computer Engineering. These offerings allow our students flexibility to tailor their education towards their careers goals. We call our "Net New Women" goal 30-30-30. We want female undergraduate and graduate participation in computing to reflect their overall school demographics of 30%. It is also our intention to see the percentage of women faculty exceed 30%. To help us achieve a diverse, well-qualified undergraduate body we actively recruit with career nights and with three first-year course offerings. Although all offerings prepare students for immediate entry into secondary courses, they differ in pedagogy and intended audiences, from the inexperienced to the experienced. These practices are achieving results. Our major graduation rates are projected to climb from a historic high of 15% to over 25% women.

See Jim's University of Virginia Pacesetters story:

Adrienne Harrell

Adrienne Harrell, Director of Undergraduate Student Affairs

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University of California - Santa Cruz

Over the last 18 months, the number of women majoring in computer science at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) has increased by 40%. Faculty and staff at the Jack Baskin School of Engineering (JBSOE) have introduced a number of initiatives to encourage greater participation of women in computing on campus.

We are reaching out to middle school girls with a summer camp called "Girls in Engineering", which focuses computer science and engineering. Through our participation in the Bay Area Affiliate of the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing, we are encouraging high-school-age young women to pursue computing and establishing UCSC as a women-friendly place to study computing. An outreach "road show" is designed to influence more young women to consider computer science as a college option.

Our NSF-funded scholarship program targets financially disadvantaged students, especially women, and includes a unique live-and-learn community and shared curriculum in the first year. We also are reaching out to women already at UCSC through the redesign of an entry-level course and an advertising campaign we call "Project Awesome." Project Awesome is an aggressive "in-reach" program targeting first- and second-year women with brochures mailed to their homes, welcome events on campus, and a website ( that provides encouragement and incentive to study computing.

Hear Adrienne tell the University of California Santa Cruz Pacesetters story:

Debra Richardson

Debra Richardson, Ted and Janice Smith Family Foundation, Dean of Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Science

Organization Name 
University of California - Irvine

At the Bren School of ICS at the University of California Irvine, we are encouraging undeclared freshman (with a focus on women) to enroll in one or more of our non-major classes and then complete one or more of our minors or transfer into one of our majors. We reach out to non-majors and "advertise" our introductory courses and the importance of being computationally fluent in the 21st century. We "market"" to undergraduate students who are already enrolled in their non-major courses about the opportunities for both minoring and majoring in computing-related disciplines. UCI also offers computing-related workshops to middle and high school girls - such as AppJams teaching them to develop mobile applications for STEM education targeted at young children. Our experience is that these fun, relevant workshops engage students in the learning process and this may result in students joining ICS@UCI, or may result in them pursuing computing majors at other institutions.

Hear Debra tell the University of California, Irvine Pacesetters story:

Nilka Thomas

Nilka Thomas, Global Diversity & Inclusion Programs Manager

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Google's university programs have always made efforts to reach women on campus, but in 2011, we began a new program targeted at increasing the number of female software engineering interns at Google. Google.GetAJob() is different: instead of just going to a campus, we bring college women to the Google offices, where they attend a career development panel with Google engineers, participate in mock technical interviews, and get a tour of a Google office. The first Google.GetAJob() event in January 2011 resulted in doubling the number of women interns in 2011, compared to the year prior.

In September 2011 we hosted four additional Google.GetAJob() events in Boulder, Colorado; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Waterloo, Ontario Canada. In addition to expanding to multiple sites, the number of applicants to these events grew by 500% and the number of attendees grew by 600%. The feedback we've received so far from attendees has been very positive, and the Google volunteers (more than 80 of them) enjoyed these events as well. We are hopeful that this event will continue to grow and result in increasing numbers of women applying for and accepting jobs within Google.

Ignatios Vakalis

Ignatios Vakalis, Chair, Department of Computer Science

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California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, students in computer science and software engineering expressed interest in learning more technologies in context and application, beginning very early in their major. In 2010 we revised our first-year course selections, so that now students can choose a flavor from a menu of an introductory computing course. Current flavors include:  Game Design, Mobile App Development, Robotics, Music Composition, and Computational Art. We are working on adding: Cybersecurity and Data Analytics. These courses reflect the evolution of computing instruction by giving students choices in their introductory class, teaching "algorithmic thinking," using context to draw students in and keep their interest, and implementing project-based learning in a group environment. Initial results show that this approach has been especially popular and effective with female students.

Cal Poly also has emphasized opportunities for women in computing to develop visibility for themselves and the field. Our Computer Science Department promotes the women in computing student club, runs a speaker series, and established a mentoring mechanism for female students. The department provides outstanding support to female students for attending and participating the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference (32 female students attended and Grace Hopper conference in Oct 2013; a record number for a public University). The department has successfully hosted three “NCWIT Awards for Aspirations in Computing” for high school girls and will continue this commitment.  Our recruitment efforts have been substantially enhanced with the dedicated efforts of our female majors who are visiting their former high schools, using NCWIT road show materials, to ignite the passion of prospective female students.

Hear Ignatios share the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Pacesetters story: