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Back to March 2002 CRN Table of Contents

[Published originally in the March 2002 edition of Computing Research News, p. 2]

Expanding the Pipeline

CRA-W Announces New Distributed Mentoring Project Affiliates Program

by Anne Condon and Mary Lou Soffa

CRA's Committee on the Status of Women in Computer Science and Engineering (CRA-W) is pleased to announce the expansion of its highly successful Distributed Mentoring Project (DMP) to include an affiliates program. The DMP, active since its inception in 1994, pairs and funds outstanding undergraduates with female mentors for a summer of research, with the overall goal of increasing the participation of women students in graduate school in Computer Science and Computing Engineering (CS&E). Having the same goal, the DMP affiliates program expands the range of faculty and students who can participate in the DMP by providing some of the benefits of the DMP program to an already matched student researcher and faculty member.

"Isn't it opportunities like these that attracted us to academia in the first place?" asks Dave Patterson, Pardee Professor of Computer Science at UC Berkeley, who is planning to apply to the pilot DMP Affiliates Program this year. "Last summer, in conjunction with one of my strong male graduate students, I worked with an undergraduate student. She did great. Not only will our work lead to a paper for all three of us, she is going to apply to Ph.D. programs, which she had no plans to do before the summer. Given 5,000 CS&E faculty, if half of us mentored an underrepresented undergrad and these mentees went to grad school, we could change the face of our field."

According to the most recent Computing Research Association Taulbee Survey of Ph.D.-granting CS&E departments, women received 16 percent of the Ph.D. degrees and 27 percent of the masters degrees awarded in CS&E in 2001. While these numbers are up slightly from previous years, there is a long way to go in order to reach the levels of participation attained by women in other scientific fields.

One reason for the low percentage of women who receive graduate degrees is the low percentage of women who enter graduate school after receiving a B.S. degree. The Baccalaureate & Beyond longitudinal survey, conducted by the U.S. National Center for Educational Statistics, reports that, for 1994, only 3 percent of female graduates with computer science degrees were enrolled in professional or graduate school one year after graduating, whereas 29 percent of the male graduates were enrolled. In both cases, the sample considered graduates with greater than a 3.5 GPA. Continued efforts to improve these statistics are needed to increase the representation of women who hold high-level positions in academia and industry.

To address this need, the DMP has paired outstanding female undergraduates in the United States with female mentors for a summer of research at the mentor's institution. The program has supported a total of 177 students since 1994. A Canadian DMP program that was initiated in 2001 and supported four students will be offered again this year. The DMP research experience provides students with a window on research and graduate life, and gives them a close mentoring relationship with a faculty researcher. The goal of the DMP program--which has been funded primarily by NSF with additional funds from NPACI and USENIX and through the NSERC USRA program--is to increase the number of women entering graduate school in CS&E.

A longitudinal evaluation of the DMP program has found that most students entered the program with little understanding of graduate school and no experience with research. Forty percent of the women who participated did not enter college considering CS as a college major, and felt that they had less hands-on experience than their male peers. By observing and interacting with graduate students and faculty, and by doing a "hands-on" research project, they gained strategic information about applying to graduate schools, and developed confidence in their abilities to succeed in graduate school or in a research environment. More than 50 percent of the DMP students who had already graduated by 1999 have gone on to graduate school, and an even higher percentage of recent participants who have not yet graduated have indicated their intent to obtain an advanced degree.

In order to extend the benefits of the DMP to more students and to both male and female faculty who are working towards the goals of the DMP, CRA is initiating a new pilot program in the summer of 2002: the DMP Affiliates Program. This program is targeted at female undergraduate students and their faculty advisors, who are funding the students for a summer research project in Canada or the United States and are interested in combining mentoring with research advising. The DMP Affiliates Program differs from the regular DMP in that faculty member and student have their own research funding and must apply as a pair, rather than being matched by the program. There are no citizenship requirements for student applicants, and both female and male mentors are encouraged to apply.

Students who participate in the DMP Affiliates Program will be included in the DMP network, will be eligible to apply for travel funds to attend a conference with their advisor, and will be invited to attend DMP activities. For example, this year students will be invited to the DMP reunion at the Grace Hopper Conference in October 2002. Mentors will also be invited to attend the DMP reunion, and will be recognized for their participation in the program. Both student and mentor will receive training materials on how to get the most out of this mentoring and research experience. The DMP web site, which includes descriptions of the research projects of DMP students, will also be expanded to include the DMP affiliates.

Student/faculty pairs are eligible to apply to the DMP Affiliates Program if the faculty member is working at a university in the United States or Canada that has an active computing research program into which the student will be integrated. The primary selection criteria are: the suitability of the professor's research project for the participating student; the conduciveness of the professor's university environment to the goals of the project, such as an active summer research population that would provide the student with a window on graduate student life; and the potential that the participation of the professor and student will advance the goals of the program. Participants are expected to take part in the standard DMP program evaluation.

The deadline for applications is FRIDAY, MAY 3, 2002. Notifications will be given to applicants by Monday, May 13, 2002. Application details are available at: Applications should be sent via e-mail to Donnajean Ward ( at the CRA office. Plain text files are preferable to formatted documents. Questions about the program can be directed to Anne Condon ( or Mary Lou Soffa (

Anne Condon (University of British Columbia) and Mary Lou Soffa (University of Pittsburgh) co-chair CRA's Committee on the Status of Women in Computer Science and Engineering (CRA-W); Soffa is also a member of the CRA board.

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