iPass Earns $1M in NSF Funding

CCI Team Earns $1M Grant from NSF to Increase Success of Underrepresented Populations

A collaboration featuring Drs. Mohsen Dorodchi, Roslyn Mickelson and Bojan Cukic has been recognized by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for its innovative approach to improving success in Computer Science (CS) for students from underrepresented populations. More than scholarships, iPass will provide mentoring, tutoring, and student-centered activities to ensure the program’s students remain engaged and on track. In addition, faculty will be better trained in issues of sexism, racism and microaggression which often go unrecognized while student success and inclusion suffer.

During an initial four-year run, iPass will fund 15 scholarships to students pursing bachelor’s degrees in CS. The project will redevelop the standard CS curricula by inserting topics that are tied to students’ interests. I-PASS Fellows will be selected from a pool of eligible economically disadvantaged, female, underserved minority, rural and first-generation students.

The I-PASS project aims to address issues of equity and access in CS by:

  1. Increasing the retention and graduation of underserved students in CS
  2. Narrowing the CS performance gaps and graduation rates between CS majors and underserved students
  3. Broadening and enhancing the gender, ethnic, generational, and social class backgrounds of CS students
  4. Developing interventions that can be extended to other STEM disciplines

The project’s intervention components will be evaluated using a quasi-experimental, mixed method research design that involves a purposively selected treatment group of the student scholars. The scholars will receive the project’s intervention for four years, starting the first semester of their first year in college. Two control groups will also be selected and will allow the research team to evaluate the success of the project using quantitative indicators of the program’s outcomes (e.g., grades, retention, and persistence to graduation). In addition to quantitative indicators, the project will administer surveys and in-depth interviews to assess the success of the interventions and examine how the intervention components help (or fail to) mitigate obstacles the scholars face in pursuit of their CS degree.

iPass will build on and add to the body of evidence-based strategies that increase diversity and success of students in STEM, and specifically, in CS. Findings will be disseminated through reports, conference paper presentations, and published research articles.

Dorodhci is most excited that the project goes beyond simply providing financial support. “It involves improving the curricula and pedagogy in introductory CS courses so that courses involve active, student-centered learning and teaching. The I-PASS fellows will also receive tiered mentoring; tutoring; involvement in research; and service learning,” he says. “These innovations will be done through collaboration within CCI as well as with other university entities such as The University Center for Academic Excellence (UCAE).

“The innovations’ purpose is to provide the necessary support for students to successfully finish and graduate with their computer science degree within four years. I-PASS Fellows will be prepared for the workforce and/or graduate school.”

Eligible members of the 2019 freshman class of computer science majors will be able to apply for an I-PASS fellowship.

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