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Innovation, leadership, and impact, especially in engineering, science and mathematics


Sometimes diversity isn’t about opportunity so much as perception. Such was the case for the gender gap between male and female computer science

majors at Harvey Mudd College. Although plenty of opportunities existed for female students, few opted to pursue the major. When the HMC Computer Science Department tackled the issue, it resolved

to give first-year women students a broader view of computer science, a glimpse of women working in the field, and a chance to discover they could understand and apply the science. To achieve these goals, CS faculty created a new introductory CS course, took students to a conference that celebrates women computer scientists and offered sum- mer research suitable for students with only one or two CS courses under their belts. “The three initiatives work together in a synergistic way,” says Christine Alvarado, associate professor of computer science. “Our new CS5 gives students a broad view of what computer science really is, summer research helps them gain confidence in what they can do with the knowledge they learn in the classroom, and trips to the Grace Hopper Celebration show them there are interesting jobs in CS and interesting people who do them.” Faculty harnessed the role model power of the Grace Hopper Celebration of

Women in Computer Science and used it as a recruitment tool. E-mails were sent to first-year women and funding from multiple sources helped cover the costs. Eight first-year students attended the inaugural trip in 2006. By 2010, that number rose to 35. The three-part approach has shifted the percentage of women CS majors at HMC from 12 percent to 35 percent—most recently 40 percent for the class of 2010. (The class of 2013 has an overall lower percentage of women—36 percent— which affects the average for the major.) Revamping HMC’s introductory CS course involved changes to both its content

and structure. Efforts focused on demystifying the science and getting students im- mediately immersed in writing programs they would enjoy using. Content was bro- ken into a series of five modules on core topics, such as functional programming and computer organization. More advanced topics include object-oriented programming, with applications based around ideas from Artificial Intelligence. One module steps away from programming entirely to examine what computers can and cannot do, introducing students to the concept that a program’s limits may be set by something other than their programming ability. The course was refined into two tracks to ac- commodate students’ CS experience level—Black for those with some experience and Gold for those with none. Both cover the same core content using the same science and engineering themes, but the Black track goes into a little more depth and looks at some more advanced applications and ideas. More recently, a CS5 Green was added to introduce the same core content but in a biology context. Shedding the belief that “students had to complete at least three CS classes to

have meaningful research experiences,” in 2007, CS faculty created research projects suitable for students who had completed only one or two CS courses. This gave more women, who typically don’t have CS experience prior to college, an opportunity to do research after their first year. In operation for the past four summers, the program offers rising sophomore women (and men) the chance to practice their new skills working with ongoing projects in artificial intelligence, robotics and games.

–Koren Wetmore


Milestones 2006–2011

20 06

Maria Klawe named fifth HMC president (July 1)

HMC named “One of New Ivies,” Kaplan/Newsweek

No. 1 undergraduate engineering program, U.S.News and World Report

Global Clinic Program begun to prepare students for the challenges of functioning as innovative engineers and scientists in a global context

West Dorm renovated

Strategic planning process begins. Over six months, HMC community strategizes size, structure, curriculum, student body makeup, and impact upon society. Meetings, roundtables, workshops, debates result in six themes.

Campus sustainability audit at The Claremont Colleges spearheaded by Richard Haskell, professor of physics

HMC noted as a Top Design School, BusinessWeek

Science Bus volunteers inspire youngsters at local elementary

schools with hands-on science lessons.

Clinic project for The Aerospace Corp., launched into space. Original design of camera circuitry boards on picosats were developed by 2003–04 Clinic team.

Lead Project led by chemistry Professor Hal Van Ryswyk. First-year chemistry lab students and local elementary students study lead poisoning in children.

20 07

HMC 2020 funds awarded to campus community enables programs and initia- tives addressing strategic vision themes

New student organizations created: Mudders Organizing for Sustainability Solutions and Engineers for a Sustain- able World

SUMMER 2011 Har vey Mudd College 21

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