Claflin University has been awarded a $10,000 grant by the National Center for Women & Information Technology Academic Alliance Seed Fund to develop and implement initiatives for recruiting women and under-represented populations in computing and information technology.
Dr. Cheryl A. Swanier, chair of Claflin’s Department of Mathematics & Computer Science, is the principal investigator for the grant. She is also the Henry N. and Alice Carson Tisdale Endowed Professor in the School of Natural Sciences & Mathematics. Swanier received the grant through a proposal she submitted that focused on using existing promising and effective practices for recruiting and retaining women and under-represented populations into computing-related majors and increasing the number of PhDs within this demographic. The Seed Fund was initiated in 2007 and it is funded by Microsoft Research.
More than 40 Academic Alliance member organizations have received more than $545,450 over the first 12 rounds of the selection process.
Claflin’s proposal includes establishing “Kewl Girls Kode,” a four-week computer science summer program for 20 middle school girls taught by one faculty mentor and three female computer science majors. According to Swanier, “Kewl Girls Kode” will introduce these female participants to the various aspects of computer science, professional and academic role models, potential careers and work environments.
“This grant provides Claflin’s computing students the opportunity to conduct outreach initiatives to diversify the computing pipeline,” Swanier said. “It also allows our students to mentor youth throughout the Orangeburg community, which is very important. It demonstrates ‘communiversity’ – which means that Claflin is working collaboratively within the community to prepare our future workforce in computing.”
The “Kewl Girls Kode” project will offer a wide variety of educational and entertaining activities that will challenge, inspire and expand the interest of participating students in computing and technology. The project will also engage students in creative thinking and problem solving skills.
Claflin’s implementation of the grant will incorporate multiple components designed to strengthen the academic skills of minority students and increase their representation in STEM fields. A critical mission of the grant is to improve undergraduate and graduate participation of minority students in STEM and encourage them to pursue terminal degrees.
“Our goal is to nurture and develop these students and prepare them for highly-competitive computer science and computer engineering jobs,” Swanier said. “We want to create an environment that offers networking opportunities for female professionals and minority students with similar academic and career interests.”