Goals, Innovations, Results

This page describes our departmental goals, innovations, and results.

Department Goals

Our departmental goals are:

  • Goal 1: All HMC students should receive an introduction to the field of computer science in the core curriculum that exposes them to the intellectual depth and breadth of computer science and provides some experience with programming and problem solving.
  • Goal 2: Our majors should have a strong background in the field of computer science blending experimentation, theory, and design, and should be able to integrate their broad background derived from the HMC Core Curriculum.
  • Goal 3: Our majors should possess strong oral and written communication skills, leadership skills, and an understanding of the impact of their work on society.
  • Goal 4: Our majors should have opportunities to engage in significant projects and research.
  • Goal 5: Our majors should be prepared for opportunities including immediate employment and graduate school.
  • Goal 6: Our faculty members should be effective teachers and mentors.
  • Goal 7: Our faculty members should be productive scholars who make an impact on our disciplines and involve students in our research.
  • Goal 8: Our faculty members should be active in service to the college and our local or professional communities.
  • Goal 9: The department should promote an environment that is welcoming and supportive to all students.
  • Goal 10: The department should have a reputation for excellence within and beyond the college.
  • Goal 11: The department should cultivate good relationships with the other academic departments at HMC and with our computer science colleagues at the other Claremont Colleges.

Innovations

Our department strives to innovate in the classroom and beyond. Recent efforts have focused on our introductory curricula and increasing the number of women who study computer science.

New Introductory CS Courses

  • Introductory Computer Science (aka “CS For Scientists”). With support from the National Science Foundation, we have developed a new introductory course that provides students with both practical programming skills and a broad introduction to some of the intellectual and societal contributions of computer science. Course materials and publications related to this course are available here.
  • Integrated Introduction to Computer Science and Biology (aka “CS 5 Green”). With support from HHMI and NSF, we have developed a version of our introductory computer science course in which the motivation and applications are derived from compelling problems in biology. The materials for the most recent offering of this course are available here.

Results

  • Students who go on to major in CS report that CS for Scientists was the single most important factor in their major decision.
  • Most students who took CS for Scientists (75%) felt that it changed their perception of CS, while only 47% of students who took the old version of our intro CS course felt this way.
  • Versions of the above courses have been piloted at and adopted by several schools including Northwestern University; Bucknell University; University of California, Riverside; and Claremont Graduate University.

Women in Computing

The department has also made a special effort to provide a positive and stimulating exposure to computing to women and students from traditionally underrepresented groups. In 2005 the percentage of women CS majors was around 12%. Since then the percentage of women in the major has climbed to around 35-40% where it remains steady. We made three changes to our program that led to the increase in women in our major:

  • The new introductory courses, described above;
  • Trips for first-year women students to the Grace Hopper Celebration Women in Computing; and
  • Research experiences for women students after their first year.

These changes are described in more detail in the paper Women in CS: An Evaluation of Three Promising Practices. Christine Alvarado and Zachary Dodds.  In Proceedings of SIGCSE 2010. March 10–13, 2010, Milwaukee, Wisconsin as well as in a forthcoming paper in ACM Inroads, to be published in late 2012.

Results

  • In the classes of 2012-2013, 35% of HMC CS majors and 30% of the CS/Math joint majors are women. Nationally, approximately 11% of CS majors are women.
  • Approximately 45% of the women in the classes of 2010-2012 took a second CS class at some point in their HMC careers (compared to just over 50% of the men in those classes). Only 20% of the women in the classes of 2007-2009 took a second CS class (compared to approximately 50% of the men).