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Carnegie Mellon Receives $900,000, Three-Year Grant from NSF To Promote Diversity in Web-Based Education of Software Developers

BY Byron Spice - Thu, 2000-09-14 12:00  Printer-friendly version

PITTSBURGH--The National Science Foundation has awarded Carnegie Mellon University a three-year grant of nearly $900,000 to develop tools to promote diversity in the Web-based education of software developers, in response to the growing number of unfilled jobs in the industry. The education programs of Carnegie Technology Education (CTE), a nonprofit subsidiary of the university, will be used as the project's setting. The goal of the project is to increase the participation of women and under-represented minorities in on-line computer education through the development, evaluation and dissemination of model recruiting materials, instructor training materials and on-line curriculum materials.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy has been creating software jobs at a rate of 200,000 per year; yet the nation's annual production of degrees in computing fields, from associate degrees to Ph.Ds, numbers closer to 40,000. Experts say the shortage of software professionals has cost the economy an estimated three to four billion dollars per year in the Silicon Valley region alone. Amid this demand, the demographics of those entering computing remain skewed. The Computing Research Association reports that at the nation's Ph.D.-granting departments of computer science and engineering, just 5 percent of bachelor's degrees, the standard credential for software jobs, go to Blacks and Hispanics of either sex, and just 15 percent to women of any racial/ethnic group. While this shortage is increasing, the numbers of on-line education programs is increasing as well.

Carnegie Mellon nonprofit subsidiary Carnegie Technology Education, which will be the vehicle for this project, provides web-based curriculum on software development to partner institutions in the U.S. and abroad. Along with the Washington Research Institute, a Seattle nonprofit, CTE will work to develop and disseminate materials and techniques that will help both CTE partners and other institutions to attract, teach and retain women and minorities in the software profession.

The principal investigators on this project are Allan Fisher, president and CEO of Carnegie Technology Education (www.carnegietech.org), and Jo Sanders of the Washington Research Institute (www.wri-edu.org). Both have impressive track records in helping institutions to attract and retain women in the field of computer science. When Fisher headed Carnegie Mellon's undergraduate program in computer science, he instituted research and reforms that raised the proportion of women entering the program from 8 percent to 42 percent over five years.

Jo Sanders, author of Lifting the Barriers: 600 Strategies That Really Work to Increase Girls' Participation in Science Mathematics and Computers, has taught gender equity practices to thousands of teachers since 1983. In an earlier NSF-funded project, Fisher and Sanders conducted summer institutes at Carnegie Mellon to teach hundreds of high school Advanced Placement (AP) computer science teachers how to teach the C++ language and how to attract and retain young women in the field.

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