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Randolph computing programs receive grant to increase gender diversity

Randolph students take a computer science class in this 2019 file photo.

Randolph College’s computing programs have received a boost from the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT).

The College has received a $10,000 gift fund and membership in NCWIT’s Learning Circle Project, which assists academic computing departments in developing and implementing initiatives to increase gender diversity in undergraduate programs.

Each participating college or university was charged with creating a committee to pursue a set of recruitment and retention initiatives the grant money will now support.

“This is just a start to our work with NCWIT, which hosts a lot of amazing opportunities for institutions like ours,” said mathematics professor Jia Wan. “It’s for whoever wants to improve their diversity balance, and whoever cares about their female students and their minority students. That’s exactly us. We look forward to more opportunities to work in-depth with NCWIT in the future.”

Randolph’s committee for Academic Support of Diversity in Computing Programs (ASDCP) was formed in 2019. Members include Wan; Peter Sheldon, Randolph’s Charles A. Dana Professor of Physics & Engineering; Peggy Schimmoeller, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Education; Marc Ordower, mathematics professor; Katrin Schenk, physics professor; and Kim Sheldon, director of student success.

“Randolph has a computer science and mathematics major, as well as a computer science minor and a data science minor. In 2019, these were brand new programs, so we wanted to start things off right by networking and connecting with resources,” Wan said.

Throughout 2020, NCWIT held monthly virtual meetings members could attend, with topics ranging from recruiting students to teaching resources to collaborative research platforms.

Members of Randolph’s committee met amongst themselves as well, eventually producing a strategic plan with two major goals: To develop a teacher licensure program for computer science and organize a computer programming competition for high school students, to be held on campus next fall.

The competition would offer participants the opportunity to both show off their programming skills and learn some new ones, while giving the College the chance to recruit more students into the program.

“This is an opportunity to help female students step into computing programs and beyond, including the sciences,” Wan said. “We have an outstanding history of encouraging female students to chase after their dreams. I think this is our advantage. I’m sure we can be successful.”

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