Using Evidence-Based Educational Practices to Prepare and Support Highly Qualified Students with Financial Need for Careers in Computing and Cyber-Security
This project will establish a scholarship program through a consortium of two four-year institutions in Texas and California and two partner two-year colleges: the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), California State University-Stanislaus (CSU-S), El Paso Community College (EPCC), and Merced College (MC). The project will prepare low-income, academically talented students to enter the workforce in the high demand areas of computer science and cyber-security. S-STEM scholars will participate in co-curricular activities that actively engage them in professional development activities that support their trajectories through undergraduate studies, in particular from two-year colleges to four-year institutions, and onto advanced degrees. The project will build on the effective practices and strategies of the Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (CAHSI), funded by NSF (CNS-1042341). As the lead institution of CAHSI, UTEP will coordinate the implementation in this project of activities based on CAHSI's proven practices that support student success. Such activities include: the Affinity Research model that focuses on student professional, communication, and research/workplace skills development; mentoring that provides access to resources, information, and guidance; and the CAHSI Summit that provides opportunities for students to network with industry representatives, participate in technical workshops, and prepare for interviews and internships. The project will have a dedicated website hosted by each participating four-year institution, and it will use social media to reach potential applicants. In addition, each four year institution will employ face-to-face recruitment activities that include an annual two-day event for a pool of potential applicants from area high schools, the university, and partnering two-year colleges. The event will include highly interactive activities to build interest in computing degrees and discuss career pathways, including jobs in industry, government, non-governmental organizations, and entrepreneurial opportunities. The activities will also stress the importance of advanced education.
The project will investigate the effectiveness of integrated evidence-based practices with the targeted student population and will contribute to the existing knowledge base with new understandings regarding factors that lead to the recruitment, retention, and degree attainment of the target population of students in computing. In particular, it will identify to what extent students pursue cyber-security as an area of expertise and which activities are particularly compelling for students. The research will utilize a sociocultural, situated learning lens to examine how S-STEM scholars develop and expand communities of computing practice. Research methods include the following: participant observation, semi-structured individual and group interviews, document analysis (including institutional research data analysis), and survey methods. Analysis will involve inductive and deductive coding practices, constant comparative analysis, and statistical analysis of differences in student outcomes (e.g., transfer rate, GPA, intentions for graduate school). The research study will inform the education research and CS communities about the specific elements that are needed to create inclusive learning environments in computing, while also building a much-needed foundation of knowledge on factors that facilitate the adoption and sustainability of evidence-based reforms that serve low income, highly qualified students in computing.