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UW CSE: Reaching more students than ever and expanding opportunities for women in computer science

14x growth in introductory course enrollment at UW CSEHere at UW CSE, we are experiencing record interest in our undergraduate major and record enrollments in our introductory courses. This explosion of interest is happening across the country, but UW is doing particularly well among a key demographic underrepresented in the field: women.

When principal lecturer Stuart Reges attended a recent meeting organized by the National Center for Women & Information Technology, he talked about the tremendous growth of student interest in computer science. He shared UW CSE’s enrollment data to illustrate his point: around 2,800 students per year enroll in our first intro course – representing nearly half of the freshman class – and around 1,800 students per year in our second course. These two courses alone account for about 1.6 percent of all undergraduate student units taught on UW’s Seattle campus.

Building on what is already a good-news story, UW CSE is also seeing record percentages of women taking our introductory courses and pursuing our undergraduate major. The 2013-14 Taulbee Survey found that, nationally, less than 15 percent of undergraduate computer science degrees were granted to women.  At the UW, 30% of bachelors degrees in the most recent year were granted to women. And we expect this trend to continue: In our first intro course (CSE142), the class is currently 35% women.

A key element of our success has been our undergraduate TA program. CSE has 83 undergraduate TAs helping us to teach the 1,800 students currently enrolled currently in CSE142. Thirty-nine of those TAs are women; at 47 percent, this is the highest concentration of women we have seen in the last 10 years. Seeing young women a year ahead thriving in the field provides the best possible encouragement!

There is more work to be done, but we are proud of the way our commitment to diversity in computer science is helping us to lead the nation in engaging more women in the field!

View our video about the explosive growth in student participation in CSE’s intro courses here.

Learn more about the steps UW CSE is taking to broaden participation in the field here.

February 26, 2015