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This ­w Program Encourages Women, Minorities Into Computer Science Field


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A class in the Wisconsin Emerging Scholars in Computer Sciences program.

The University of Wisconsin continues to use the Wisconsin Emerging Scholars in Computer Sciences program to draw women and minorities to the computer science field.

Credit: University of Wisconsin Communications.

The University of Wisconsin's (UW) Wisconsin Emerging Scholars in Computer Sciences (WES-CS) program has been active since 2004, and now it aims to broaden its course offerings beyond introductory classes. UW has used the program to draw women and minorities to the computer science field.

WES-CS seeks to give students one-on-one support to cultivate confidence, which many aspiring computer science majors lack, according to Mark Hill, chair of the UW Department of Computer Sciences.

UW computer science undergraduate program coordinator Nikki Lemmon notes women make up only 14 percent of the school's computer science majors. She also says it is imperative "to have a computing workforce that reflects the true diversity of our society."

WES-CS director Tracy Lewis-Williams notes the program concentrates on the introductory course's fusion of logic puzzles and games with sophisticated coding such as JavaScript, while also providing a communal spirit to enrollees. She says WES-SC looks to support a "learning comfort zone" in which instructors can debunk misconceptions and stereotypes about computer science.

"Being in the WES-CS program and talking with other students and women who've never programmed before makes me feel much more confident," says program participant and sophomore Saloni Saraf.

From The Badger Herald (WI)
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