Moving America Forward

One Small Tweak Made a World of Difference in This Computer Science Class

March 3, 2014
One Small Tweak Made a World of Difference in This Computer Science Class
Peter M. Fisher/Fuse/Thinkstock
Berkeley and Stanford are increasing women's STEM enrollment by retooling classes.

Something revolutionary happened last spring at the University of California Berkeley. For the first time ever, as far as digitized records indicate, more women than men enrolled in Professor Dan Garcia’s introductory computer science course, “Beauty and Joy of Computing.” Men have long outnumbered women in computer science majors, earning 81.8% of the bachelor’s degrees according to a 2010 National Science Foundation report, and are far more represented in careers in the field. So professors at Berkeley, Stanford, and elsewhere have retooled their computer science classes, especially introductory ones, with the hopes of attracting more women to them.

Garcia told Kristen V. Brown of the San Francisco Chronicle that he conceived his computer science class for non majors as being more than “just programming,” and he made it “kind of right-brained as well.”

Sumer Mohammed took Garcia’s course without plans to major in computer science, and the class changed her mind. She’s now an electrical engineering and computer science major. In recent years Berkeley and Stanford have about doubled their computer science enrollment among women, who now comprise 21% of the students in this discipline at each school.

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