NSF INCLUDES: Mississippi Alliance for Women in Computing (MAWC)
The Mississippi Alliance for Women in Computing (MAWC) project will identify factors that influence and motivate female students and female African American students in Mississippi to enroll and persist in an undergraduate engineering- or science-based computing major. There is a particular need for programming that is inclusive of women and women of color who are from the southern region of the United States. These students typically have less access to extracurricular activities that encourage computing, and are less likely to visualize themselves in a computing major or career. This proposed research is to help girls to know that computer science exists and what jobs in computer science are available with a degree in computer science. A rich environment exists in Mississippi for an alliance focused on building co-curricular and mentorship opportunities. A scalable pipeline model, expandable to a Southern Alliance for Women in Computing (SAWC), will be developed with three major objectives: to attract women and women of color to computing, to improve retention rates of women in undergraduate computing majors, and to help postsecondary women make the transition to the computing workforce. Activities to support these objectives include: scaling the National Center for Women and Information Technology Aspirations in Computing award program in Mississippi, expanding scholarships for Aspirations winners, expanding student-led computing outreach programs, establishing a Mississippi Black Girls Code chapter, informing and collaborating with the Computer Science for Mississippi initiative, creating a summer bridge and living-learning community for women in computing majors, and increasing professional development opportunities for women in computing through conferences, lunch and learn meetings, job shadowing, and internships.
The project will analyze whether the co-curricular activities of MAWC lead to computing self-efficacy and ultimately female students selecting to pursue and persist in computing majors and careers. In order to understand student participation and efficacy changes, data collection for this research will be through demographic and background surveys administered to women entering an undergraduate engineering- or science-based computing major at a university in Mississippi and student surveys and evaluations in MAWC-sponsored programs. Using discriminate analysis methods, specific research questions to be addressed are: 1) Which pre-collegiate experiences influenced them to enroll, 2) Which stakeholders influenced these girls in their decision-making process, and 3) What programs are effective in impacting their persistence in the major. Predictor variables for each respective research question are: pre-collegiate experiences, stakeholders, and programs. Outcome variables are: (a) a female undergraduate student with no involvement with MAWC programming, (b) MAWC activity participant, or (c) a MAWC participant having graduated with a bachelor?s degree in a STEM major. Results will complement published longitudinal research on the gendered and raced dimensions of computing literacy acquisition in Mississippi as well as research on effective CS role model programming.
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