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Jan. 28, 2016

MSU receives award to attract more women to computer science

Michigan State University is one of three Michigan institutions selected for the National Center of Women and Information Technology Pacesetters program, a project designed to attract more women into the field of computer science.

Pacesetters is a two-year program in which participating institutions develop aggressive and measurable goals for increasing the number of women in the U.S. computing and technology workforce.

It is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Google and Qualcomm,

At MSU, female majors in computer science have steadily increased from 7 percent in 2008 to the current 13 percent. On the strength of past programs supported by the center, MSU was awarded a 2015 NCWIT Extension Services Transformation Award.

In its Pacesetters program, MSU is partnering with Lansing Community College to increase recruitment and retention of women, first-generation students and students of color in computer science, said Laura Dillon, professor of computer science and engineering at MSU.

The partnership will use courses at the community college to provide affordable introductory programming experiences for at-risk students enrolled at Michigan State. Pacesetters also will reach out to K-12 guidance counselors to help broaden the diversity of the computing workforce, Dillon said.

“To be competitive in tomorrow’s economy, Michigan needs the talents and contributions of a more diverse workforce skilled in how to create – not just use – technology,” Dillon said. “This MSU-LCC Pacesetter partnership is a great opportunity to better support and prepare diverse students, many of whom lack opportunity in K-12, for the rigors of the computer science major at MSU.”

This year’s grants went to 42 organizations nationwide, including MSU, Michigan Tech and the University of Michigan. With three universities chosen and a community college partnership, Michigan is one of the three best-represented states in Pacesetters.

Michigan has more than 16,000 job openings in computing right now, according to, a nonprofit founded to improve access to computer science for women and underrepresented minorities.

By: Tom Oswald