GGC awarded national grant to help recruit, retain women in technology

Will support “boot camp” program for 24 rising female IT sophomores 

Georgia Gwinnett College is one of five academic institutions to receive a $10,000 grant from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Academic Alliance Seed Fund and Microsoft Research for use in developing and implementing initiatives that recruit and retain women in computing and technology fields of study. 
 
“GGC has already been committed to supporting women in information technology (IT) through current outreach initiatives focused on middle and high school girls, as well as professional development opportunities for female IT students,” said Dr. Sonal Dekhane, associate professor of information technology. “This grant enables us to add an initiative to encourage women to register for the introductory programming course early so they can graduate on time. Early registration and a comprehensive understanding of programming fundamentals are critical to success in the IT discipline.” 
 
Female students often defer taking the programming course because they perceive it as difficult, and classes typically average only three females out of 24 students. Through the project, GGC aims to boost female student confidence and increase persistence.
 
The grant will allow GGC to recruit female students to a five-day boot camp where they will be trained in Java, increasing their programming skills and confidence. The boot camp will feature professional development activities designed to introduce the breadth of computing careers, and peer-mentoring sessions to form a community of support that can help participants thrive in IT. 
 
Social scientists attribute better decision-making, group task performance, creativity, innovation and outcomes to team diversity. However, women represent only 25 percent of the computing workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Dekhane said that GGC aims to help grow that statistic by investing in future female IT leaders through such programs as the boot camp program, considering that the BLS projects that IT jobs will grow by 22 percent through 2020.
 
Dekhane, who wrote the grant proposal along with Drs. Kris Nagel and Nannette Napier, is the program director responsible for implementing the boot camp. The grant will support instructors who will create, teach and assess the curriculum, student assistants to help with programming labs, peer mentors to discuss academic and time management success strategies, industry experts who will serve as guest speakers, as well as supplies and meals.
 
The boot camp will start in May and will include summer-long projects. Participating students will present their projects to female students majoring and minoring in IT at the annual GGC Women in Information Technology Symposium in September.  
 
GGC students interested in the boot camp can apply online at http://tinyurl.com/witcamp. Participants will be selected based on applications, IT courses completed and overall academic performance. 
 
“It is our hope that more female students will see the value and opportunities in IT careers,” Dekhane said. “IT is prevalent in many industries, salaries are highly competitive and the work is collaborative, creative and rewarding.”
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