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Colorado School of Mines increases women's participation in computer science

The college, located in Golden, received national recognition for diversity in computer education.

GOLDEN, Colo. — The number of women majoring in computer science has more than quintupled over the last 10 years at Colorado School of Mines.

Those numbers, along with several initiatives at the school, garnered the school a huge honor: The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) recently awarded Mines $100,000 for its work to increase meaningful participation in computing education among women.  

Tracy Camp, who has had a focus on diversity her whole career, leads the computer science department.

RELATED: Colorado School of Mines, Colorado Department of Education partner to offer free computer science workshops for K-5 teachers

“I started trying to improve the climate for women in computing, thinking about ways to make sure that our door is open to all students,” Camp said.

Credit: Byron Reed

Camp is a professor and head of the computer science department.  She said the school saw room for improvement about 10 years ago when the percentage of women in her department was about 10%. Now, that number has doubled.

“We’re almost at 21% women in computer science at a university where the population is only about 29-30% women,” Camp said. “I am thrilled with the changes that we’ve seen in our demographics over that last 5 to 10 years.”

Camp said she’s seen improvement through initiatives that include female-led K-12 outreach programs like DECtech; industry partnership program C-MAPP; CS+X degree flexibility; and U-CLIMB, also a near-peer mentoring program where undergraduate teaching assistants are trained to be inclusive of all students.

Credit: Byron Reed

"We’re just thrilled with the demographic shift that we’ve seen within the department — both for women, as well as underrepresented students," Camp said.

“It’s really cool to see, even in the past couple of semesters, see the numbers increase for women,” said sophomore Meghan Kinnischtzke “Since I am a physics major, computers are a huge part of physics and of science as a whole, and so it’s important that we learn how to code.”

Credit: Byron Reed
Credit: Byron Reed

“We are very excited about the transformation we’ve had at Colorado School of Mines for the last several years,” Camp said.  “We still have some work to do, but we’re on the right trend.”

“I’m a part of the generation of women that is coming in and being like, 'No, we can do this too, just as well if not better,'" Kinnischtzke added.

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