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Computer Science Faculty and Students Work to Increase Retention Rates

March 26, 2012
By: WSU News

Aparna Mahadev (Computer Science) and two Computer Science students, James Forkey and Trevor Hodde made a poster presentation on peer mentoring at the National Science Foundation (NSF) headquarters in Washington, D.C. on March 21.

Professor Karl Wurst (Computer Science) and Mahadev are campus investigators for a NSF grant, Commonwealth Alliance for Information Technology Education (CAITE), with University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst as the principal investigator of the grant. As part of this grant, WSU has worked for the past three years with other public higher education campuses across Massachusetts to increase retention and to increase student success in the Computer Science major. WSU is the only state university that is part of this grant along with the UMass Amherst, UMass Boston, UMass Dartmouth, UMass Lowell, and many Massachusetts community colleges. As part of this effort, there is a mentor assigned for each section of CS 101 and CS 140, our “gateway” courses. Mentors are usually upperclassmen who took these courses at our campus. Mentors run a 1 1/2 hour informal session each week where students have an opportunity to participate in additional learning activities that will expand upon the material covered in class. There is qualitative evidence that this effort is certainly improving our retention rates in our gateway courses.

James Forkey has been a mentor for the past three years for both CS 101 and CS 140 and Trevor Hodde has been mentoring since Fall 2011 for CS 101. UMass is currently in the process of securing a new grant and WSU will continue to play a role if the grant gets funded. The poster presentation on Peer Mentoring was one of the 12 posters presented as part of the reverse site visit by NSF.

Submitted by Aparna Mahadev (Computer Science)

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