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Western Washington UniversityCommunications and Marketing
DATE: March 1, 2011 7:00:30 AM PST
WWU Receives $590,000 Grant from the NSF to Graduate More Women Students in Math and Computer Science

Contact: Perry Fizzano, Western Washington University assistant professor of Computer Science, at perry.fizzano@wwu.edu, or David Hartenstine, WWU associate professor of Mathematics at david.hartenstine@wwu.edu. 

BELLINGHAM – Two Western Washington University faculty members have been awarded a five-year, $590,000 National Science Foundation grant to help promote the recruitment, retention, and graduation of gifted female students into the Computer Science and Mathematics programs at WWU.

The grant would provide up to $10,000 in need-based scholarship funds per student per year for up to eight students per incoming class, from freshman year through senior year, as long as they remain within either of the two programs. More than $500,000 of the grant total will be dedicated solely to scholarships.

“The reality is that women make up about 54 percent of Western’s student body, but only 10 percent of Computer Science majors and about 35 percent of Math majors. And this isn’t just a trend here – it’s a trend nationally,” said Perry Fizzano, WWU assistant professor of Computer Science, who along with David Hartenstine, associate professor of Mathematics, wrote the grant proposal and will help oversee its allocation over the next five years.

“This is really about trying to overcome a mode of thinking, of changing a culture. A larger goal of the program is to create a snowball effect beyond those students directly supported by the scholarships.  We feel that a big kick-start like this can make a huge difference,” said Hartenstine.

Besides the scholarship funding, the grant will also pay for student tutors in both Math and Computer Science as well as efforts in support, advising and education about future careers in the disciplines that goes beyond the stereotypes and common myths about the profession.

According to Fizzano, part of changing the culture will be showing how inaccurate those stereotypes are.

“Just because you’re a Computer Science major doesn’t mean you’re just going to graduate and sit in front of a computer and write code all day,” said Fizzano. “Some do, because they enjoy that – but there’s so much more in the field that’s out there than just writing lines of code.”

For more information on the grant, contact Perry Fizzano, Western Washington University assistant professor of Computer Science, at perry.fizzano@wwu.edu, or David Hartenstine, WWU assistant professor of Mathematics at david.hartenstine@wwu.edu.

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