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Maria Klawe: Esteemed Computer Scientist. Proud Mathematician. Watercolor Painter.


Harvey Mudd College president Maria Klawe.

Maria Klawe has made a goal of her tenure as president of Harvey Mudd College to encourage women to enter computer science.

Credit: Maria Klawe

Maria Klawe, computer scientist and president of Harvey Mudd College, entered computer science (CS) at the height of women's participation in the field and has watched women's presence decline throughout her career. This experience has driven her to make encouraging women to enter computer science one of her chief goals as Harvey Mudd's president.

Klawe, a former president of ACM, was the first female president of the college; during her eight years there, Harvey Mudd has seen its female enrollment rate jump from 31 percent to 47 percent, with a similar increase among the faculty.

Klawe also has promoted a program to expand and open up Harvey Mudd's computer science program. Starting in 2006, the staff sought to increase the number of computer science majors at the college and made changes including revamping the introductory courses to make them more stimulating, supportive, and efficient. One major change was to create separate sections for students who already had prior experience so they would not dominate the CS courses, which can often discourage less-experienced students. Klawe says these changes have helped encourage many new students, especially female students who would previously have avoided CS, to pursue the field, with the field now accounting for 40 percent of all majors at the college.

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