Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's a start

Google has taken an interesting step in the quest to reverse the decline in students majoring in computer science--especially students in under-represented groups, where the decline is even more precipitous.
At a time when more and more digital technologies are becoming indispensable to millions of people, the field of computer science (CS) is in trouble. Enrollment and retention of CS students, particularly those historically underrepresented in the field (women, African-Americans, Native-Americans, and Hispanics) has declined sharply. According to the Computing Research Association, CS enrollment in the U.S. was at its peak in 2000, with 15,958 undergrads. By 2006, enrollment declined by roughly half: 7,798 undergrads. And enrollment among already-underrepresented groups has dropped even more sharply.

We hope to address this problem (and potential shortage) with a variety of programs beyond our scholarship initiatives. Recently, our educational outreach group, University Programs, and Diversity and Talent Inclusion teams joined forces to create the Computer Science Summer Institute (CSSI). This special institute included an interactive and collaborative CS curriculum, as well as a living-learning residential experience for student networking. We chose 17 college sophomores, all aspiring computer scientists, to attend the all-expenses-paid CSSI in Mountain View from August 3–15.
Kudos to Google for recognizing the problem and doing something innovative and concrete to address it. Of course, 17 students is a drop in the bucket compared to the shortfall, but hopefully other companies will follow their lead.

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