College of Engineering News Room

USF Computer Science and Engineering Receives Grant to Attract and Retain More Women Computer Scientists

Grace Hopper CSE Cohort

More than 30 women USF Computer Science and Engineering students attended the 2019 Grace Hopper Celebration.

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering received a three-year, $579,737 grant from the Center for Inclusive Computing at Northeastern University for funding evidence-based approaches to attract and retain more women computer science, information technology, and cybersecurity students.

The project funded by the grant is being led by department chair and Professor Sudeep Sarkar, Professor Jing Wang, and Professor Ken Christensen. The project will implement three initiatives to improve the representation of women in computer science and engineering:

-Redesigning the existing computing for non-majors course to create new pathways into computing science, information technology, and cybersecurity

-Updating admissions and progression criteria to be more holistic

-Continuing to redesign the entry-level course sequence to be more attractive to women students

In addition, the department will regularly participate in data collection efforts.

The grant is part of a program run by the Center that provides funding to universities across the United States that have large undergraduate computing programs to bolster their efforts to increase the student population of women and underrepresented minorities. It will include contact with Technical Advisors from Northeastern's Khoury College of Computer Sciences and other institutions that have experience with practices to attract and retain women in computing programs.

The grant will support the initiatives of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering's Broadening Participation in Computing committee — a group of department faculty members created by Sarkar to address issues of equity and inclusivity faced by the computing field at large.

USF College of Engineering Dean Robert Bishop said projects like this add a new facet to the ongoing efforts of department faculty members to make computing a more inclusive field.

"The additional support of the department's existing initiatives and new collaborations with outside experts are significant opportunities," Bishop said. "Diversifying computing throughout academia and business will require a diverse effort."

Sarkar said that "The National Center for Women & Information Technology granted us a seat in their learning circle. The learning circle included Case Western Reserve and the University of Maryland — leaders of which shared ideas every month of 2019 — and we came up with a plan for the department's Broadening Participation in Computing committee."

Initiatives listed on the department's webpage for the committee encourage more women and others underrepresented in the computing field to succeed from their first year at USF to their graduation and to the start of their professional career or graduate program. This includes support for the department's Women in Computer Science and Engineering (WiCSE) student group, active data collection on women students and student populations underrepresented in computing with year-to-year change tracking, and sending students, faculty, and staff to the ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing and the Grace Hopper Celebration conferences annually.

Wang — director of the Broadening Participation in Computing committee and WiCSE advisor — said more than half of all USF women computer science and engineering students are WiCSE members, and the group provides members with both career-relevant extracurricular involvement as well as strong relationships with job recruiters.

She also said that the committee's active data collection efforts help the department track student persistence in introductory courses and evaluate the impact of curriculum changes and teaching styles.

"Data collection for diagnostic and evaluation purposes is a critical aspect of Northeastern's partnership with USF," Wang said. "Breaking down the data by gender, race, and ethnicity allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the experience of undergraduate students who are typically underrepresented in computing majors."

The department welcomes new students to learn more about its undergraduate and graduate degree programs and how Computer Science and Engineering can be their academic home at USF. Prospective students should contact the department advising team at

The Center for Inclusive Computing at Northeastern University is funded by Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company created by Melinda Gates. The Center's grant program will award grants to non-profit universities with 200 or more computing graduates annually over the next six years.