Computing CARES: A Plan to Boost the Retention of Women in Computing

The goal of Computing CARES is to lead to a more diverse population in Computer Science and Computer Engineering programs and create a better climate for all students.

female students on campus Enlarge

The field of computing is one in which women have been historically underrepresented. A few faculty in the CSE Division have recently begun in a new quest to boost the participation and retention of women in computing courses and degree majors.

These expanded opportunities will be accomplished through a U-M’s Third Century grantProf. Valeria Bertacco and Dr. Mary Lou Dorf spear-headed this effort through a proposal that they submitted this past summer to the Third Century Initiative. Joining them in the effort are a handful of other professors, lecturers and staff members from Computer Science and Engineering: Chris Firlik, Prof. Edwin Olson, Jeff Ringinberg, and Prof. Michael Wellman. The goal of the grant is to increase engaged learning and positive climate experiences in freshman and sophomore year computing courses. There will be a specific focus on female students, since women completing computer science and computer engineering degrees have been a minority compared to male students. The project is called “Computing CARES – Climate and Retention Engagement for Success” and will include a number of initiatives to improve gender diversity in the CS and CE undergraduate programs.

The project is initially targeting four entry-level computing courses: ENGR 101, ENGR 151, EECS 183 and EECS 280. A number of activities are planned for these target courses both inside and outside the classroom, designed to foster community among students: for instance, this October 24th, the students will participate to a Carnival event organized in the BBB Building. Moreover, the courses are deploying a diverse teaching staff, who will complete a training session on bias awareness. And there will be dedicated peer mentoring and study group activities to develop support networks among the students.

Another unique aspect to this program will be the use of a software app called e2coach. This app will tailor information to the individual students ranging from encouraging messages and advice from faculty and peers, to analyses of current grades and models for improving them.

“The Computing CARES grant is a great opportunity to create a community around computing, and to boost the experience that our freshmen and sophomores have in entry-level computing classes. We hope this effort will translate into better retention of women and underrepresented groups for our discipline” says Prof. Bertacco.

The goal of Computing CARES is to lead to a more diverse population in Computer Science and Computer Engineering programs and create a better climate for all students.

About the Third Century Initiative

The Third Century Initiative is $50 million/five-year initiative to develop innovative, multi-disciplinary teaching and scholarship approaches. As part of this initiative, the university charged two faculty committees with providing recommendations to the president and provost regarding the allocation of funding for the action-based learning and global challenges components of the initiative.

Chris Firlik; Division News; Edwin Olson; Jeffrey Ringenberg; Mary Lou Dorf; Michael Wellman; Valeria Bertacco