Penn Engineering Receives 2020 NEXT Grand Prize for Advancing Women in Computing Education

Penn Engineering Receives 2020 NEXT Grand Prize for Advancing Women in Computing Education

Penn Engineering’s Department of Computer and Information Science (CIS) has been named the winner of the 2020 NEXT Grand Prize Award by the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). The NEXT Awards honor organizations that have, through collaboration with NCWIT’s Extension Services, demonstrated excellence in recruiting and retaining women in computing education.

The Grand-Prize-winning effort, which comes with a $90,000 award, was spearheaded by CIS’s Zachary Ives, Adani President’s Distinguished Professor and Department Chair, Chris Murphy, Associate Professor of Practice, and Rita Powell, Director of Diversity and Belonging.

NCWIT is a non-profit coalition of organizations that develops and amplifies efforts to diversify computing. Funded by the National Science Foundation and a panel of technology corporations, NCWIT Extension Services Undergraduate Programs (ES-UP) provides customized consultation services to members of the NCWIT Academic Alliance for implementing systemic change in their undergraduate programs in ways that increase enrollment, retention, and graduation of women. Penn Engineering’s CIS department is a member of the NCWIT Academic Alliance, and has worked with NCWIT ES-UP since 2009 to develop and measure the success of its diversity initiatives.

NWCIT described the CIS Department’s accomplishments in its announcement of the 2020 NEXT Awards.

The Department of Computer and Information Science utilizes multiple strategies aligned with the NCWIT Undergraduate Systemic Change Model to influence its recruitment and retention of women. Included in those strategies are intro classes for students with or without prior programming experience; multiple major paths through either engineering or arts and sciences; strong relationships with teachers and counselors at more than 1,000 area high schools; faculty and teaching assistants’ engagement in conversations about active learning and inclusion; and intentional partnerships with the Office of Admissions to convey a commitment to gender parity. Also, strategies and policies in curriculum, pedagogy, and student support have significantly reduced women’s attrition in the major from 13.6 percent in 2006 to 6.1 percent in 2017.

NCWIT’s Undergraduate Systemic Change Model advocates a multi-pronged approach, so that the elements of systemic reform including recruiting, curriculum, pedagogy, evaluation and tracking, student support and institutional policies will work together to attract and retain a diverse student body. NCWIT ES-UP provided CIS with consultation, training and resources to implement this model.

Read more about the NEXT Awards at