This article is published in the November 2011 issue.

Career Mentoring for Faculty from Primarily Undergraduate Academic Institutions

Women in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) face particular challenges in pursuing and maintaining academic careers at primarily undergraduate academic institutions.  Women academicians in CSE typically have few female colleagues to provide critical information about the culture and content required for successful academic careers.

Women are significantly underrepresented at all levels of the academic Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) pipeline. Of particular concern is the scarcity of senior women who provide the role models, teachers, and mentors that female students need if they are to see careers in CSE as viable, and that male students need if they are to develop appropriately balanced views of female colleagues. As computing technology becomes increasingly pervasive, the under-representation of women translates to a loss of opportunity for individuals, a loss of talent to the Information Technology (IT) workforce, and a devastating loss of creativity in shaping the future of society.

To help this situation, the Computing Research Association Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W) sponsored a Career Mentoring Workshop to focus on the undergraduate Education track (CMW-E) titled “Managing the Academic Career for Women Faculty in Undergraduate Computing Programs.”  The day-long workshop was held on Wednesday, March 9, co-located with the SIGCSE 2011 (ACM SIG on Computer Science Education) symposium in Dallas, Texas. The workshop was held the day before the SIGCSE symposium so participants could begin using some of their newly acquired skills and strategies during the following days while networking with others who had attended the workshop. It is the sixth time the workshop has been co-located with SIGCSE, with previous sessions held in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009.

The goal of the workshop is to provide critical mentoring information for women at all career levels in undergraduate teaching. The target audiences of the workshop are pre-tenure faculty and graduate students in Computer Science and Engineering who are interested in an academic career, as well as post-tenure (senior) faculty seeking to improve their teaching and mentoring skills. Twenty-four participants attended the workshop, half of whom were graduate students, with the other half being professors. Two-thirds of the professors were assistant professors early in their careers.

The topics addressed issues of particular importance to faculty at teaching institutions: Teaching Survival Tactics, Promotion and Tenure, Getting What You Need, Networking Strategies, Mentoring 101, Research Strategies, Time Management, and a Q&A discussion with the presenters from all of the talks. The workshop speakers were established teachers and researchers who also served as mentors and met throughout the day with participants. They included: Tracy Camp, Boots Cassell, Sheila Castañeda, Andrea Danyluk, Ingrid Russell, Kelly Shaw and Jodi Tims. For more details on the agenda and links to the slides of the presentations please visit:

The SIGCSE symposium is the primary annual meeting focusing on undergraduate computing education. Academics who are teaching-focused attend this symposium each year to present their scholarship, to learn about the innovative pedagogy of others, and to network. In addition to a papers track, SIGCSE has many avenues for participation including special sessions, workshops, panels, birds-of-a-feather (discussions), and posters. There is also an exhibit hall with a mix of industry representatives providing information on academic programs, publishers displaying textbooks, and academics demonstrating software and course tools. The many resources available at the SIGCSE symposium were discussed during the CMW-E workshop and specific sessions were recommended. After our workshop, the participants then attended all or part of the SIGCSE symposium. Sixty-five percent of the workshop participants would not have been able to attend the symposium had it not been for the travel and lodging funding provided through the workshop grant.

We received positive evaluations of the workshop. Eighty percent of the participants indicated that they increased their knowledge on these mentoring topics. A large percentage of the participants had increased confidence in many of the topics. For example, 71 percent of participants had increased confidence in networking and professional interaction, and 62 percent had increased confidence in time management. One hundred percent of the attendees rated the workshop as Excellent or Good and included many positive comments in post-workshop evaluations:

  • “This was a great opportunity for me to get engaged with a new group, to see how other women have coped, and to find opportunities for helping my female students get connected with other women in the field.”
  • “Very good resource for faculty at small teaching institutions.”
  • “It was great! Insightful, and it’s helped encourage me onward in my graduate program towards a career in teaching.”

The workshop co-directors, Sheila Castañeda and Susan Rodger, thank all the speakers and participants for contributing to a successful and interactive workshop. They also want to thank Carla Romero for taking care of all the organizational tasks. We thank NSF and CRA for providing funding that allowed us to support the participation of a significant number of women in the workshop and SIGCSE.

Sheila Castañeda is Chair and Associate Professor of Computer Science at Clarke University. Susan Rodger is Professor of the Practice in the Department of Computer Science at Duke University.

Career Mentoring for Faculty from Primarily Undergraduate Academic Institutions