Promoting Diversity, Increasing the Number of Female Computing Sciences Majors is Program’s Aim
VILLANOVA, Pa. – Villanova University’s Department of Computing Sciences in its College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has been chosen as one of a select group of university computer science departments to participate in a Building Recruiting And Inclusion for Diversity (BRAID) initiative aimed at increasing the percentage of undergraduate majors that are female or are students of color.
Announcement of the BRAID initiative, which includes 15 university computer science departments across the country, was made by Secretary Hilary Clinton Sept. 24 during her address at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), as part of the Girl’s CHARGE, a CGI commitment toward programs for girls and women. BRAID is a joint initiative led by the Anita Borg Institute (ABI), a non-profit organization focused on advancing women in computing, and Harvey Mudd College. Funding for the three-year initiative comes from Facebook, Google, Intel and Microsoft.
Under BRAID, the computer science departments of the academic institutions selected have committed to implementing a number of approaches including expanding outreach to high school teachers and students, modifying introductory computer science courses to provide multiple paths into the major in order to appeal to a broader set of students, including women and underrepresented minorities, building community among underrepresented students, and developing joint majors in areas like computer science and biology to encourage interdisciplinary approaches. Participating universities will provide data for a research study documenting the progress made across departments. Each of the departments will receive $30,000 per year for three years to help support their efforts.
“We are very excited to be a part of the BRAID initiative. It is increasingly clear that the focus on including women and persons from minority populations is not just about fairness to those persons; it is about the wellbeing of organizations and the national economy,” said Lillian N. Cassel, PhD., Professor and Chair, Villanova’s Department of Computing Sciences.
She continued, “The growing awareness of major corporations of the need for a more diversified workforce makes the BRAID project particularly timely. There is good reason to expect that the additional women and minority students who receive attention through this project will be eagerly sought after by major corporations.”
Villanova’s Department of Computing Sciences has a long tradition of actively supporting women in computing and of encouraging diversity in its undergraduate computing program. The department has revamped its introductory courses to include a “Programming for All” course to encourage students from related disciplines to consider transitioning into the computing sciences major; is investigating interdisciplinary opportunities that could lead to the formation of double majors; sponsors a Villanova Women in Computing Sciences student organization that works to build community and confidence; and supports the participation of women students at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference.
The Grace Hopper conference offers women students an important chance to connect with prospective employers. This October, twenty-five Villanova students took part in the conference.
Other academic institutions chosen to participate in BRAID include Arizona State University, Missouri University of Science & Technology, New Jersey Institute of Technology, University of California – Irvine, University of Illinois – Chicago, University of Maryland – Baltimore County, University of Maryland – College Park, University of Nebraska, University of North Texas, University of Rochester, University of South Carolina, University of Texas – El Paso, University of Vermont, and University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.