One of the grant goals of the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) is to “leverage best practices established by national leaders in recruitment, retention, and completion for under-represented” students. To that end, the National CTC recently hosted a two-part webinar entitled “Inclusion Summit” that offered specific strategies, resources, and practices for working with under-represented populations. Specifically, Pam Silvers from Asheville–Buncombe Technical Community College discussed ways she’s successfully recruited more women into her school’s CIS Program. And Dr. Colleen Lewis from Harvey Mudd College offered her perspective on using classroom inclusion to retain women students.
This “Inclusion Summit” webinar served as an online sequel of sorts to our 2017-18 Diversity Summit workshop program. In both cases, the purpose is to educate IT faculty on concrete suggestions for changes they can make to increase the successful recruiting and retention of under-served students.
You can view each “Inclusion Summit” webinar below via our YouTube channel, click on the pictures below.
Here are a few highlights from Pam and Colleen’s webinars:
- Keep in mind that first-generation students don’t have parents with higher education know-how, so familiar terms like “FAFSA” or “syllabus” may be unknown.
- While statistics about salaries and job security often appeal to male students, those typically aren’t the same things that attract women to an academic program. How are you selling your IT classes? Female students more often want to pursue a career that allows them to help others and make a difference; gives them the chance to work in teams; or offers a way to solve problems. You may want to consider adjusting your marketing materials so you’re appealing to both perspectives.
- Small changes can make a difference. To encourage participation and create an atmosphere of inclusion, say “What questions do you have?” rather than “Any questions?”
- Keep an eye on your degree descriptions. Are you only focusing on dry, dull lists of what will be taught or are you explaining in detail how that learning will apply in the real world with a career?
- Posters of female technology role models are a good idea, but the careers of famous scientists like Dr. Sally Ride may seem too “out of reach” for students. Maybe instead your role model posters should feature local technology leaders or recent graduates. Emphasize to your female students that they are not alone in overcoming barriers and undertaking a “second chance” career.
- Remind students that everyone needs help. Set that expectation early. Tell them that they will get stuck and explain the steps they’ll need to take to find help to get unstuck. There can be a strong reluctance in some students to ask for help.
- Avoid unconscious bias by grading papers anonymously. Ask your students to write their name on the back.
- When you’re recruiting high school students, don’t forget to also work with the staff (including the school administrative assistant who interacts with students all day long). Educate them on your program. If you can get one advocate for your program in a high school, you can reach hundreds of potential students.
- Remember also undeclared majors already enrolled in your college. Likewise, consider students who may not have gotten into their program of choice. Many female students lock onto nursing because that’s the only thing they’ve ever considered. But IT technicians also solve problems for people.
- Encourage a growth mindset in the classroom by avoiding editorializing. That is, don’t introduce a lesson with “This will be simple” or “This will be hard.” That won’t be true for everyone.