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Asserting CS != Can't Socialize Building Community in a Computer Science Program Kim Kihlstrom Westmont College Santa Barbara, CA

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Presentation on theme: "Asserting CS != Can't Socialize Building Community in a Computer Science Program Kim Kihlstrom Westmont College Santa Barbara, CA"— Presentation transcript:

1 Asserting CS != Can't Socialize Building Community in a Computer Science Program Kim Kihlstrom Westmont College Santa Barbara, CA

2 Outline Introduction and Motivation Philosophy Activities Observed Results Conclusion

3 Stereotypes: looking at shoes

4 Why it is important to build community in a CS program It is part of God's calling for us to help our students grow in all ways It allows us to equip students with the interpersonal skills that they need for a productive career It allows us to attract and retain students in computer science programs –particularly female, ethnically diverse, and economically disadvantaged students

5 God’s calling to foster growth in all areas “Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:52)

6 We are the body of Christ “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4-5)

7 We need relationships with other humans “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him…But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…’ ” (Genesis 2:18ff)

8 We must be a community in Christ “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another –- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

9 We are witnessing a decline in social capital nationwide “By analogy with notions of physical capital and human capital -- tools and training that enhance individual productivity -- the core idea of social capital theory is that social networks have value. Just as a screwdriver (physical capital) or a college education (human capital) can increase productivity (both individual and collective), so too social contacts affect the productivity of individuals and groups.” Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, 2000

10 Educational system has contributed to collapse of community “One might summarize most of the current critiques of American higher education by saying that the underlying cause of many problems could be described simply as the collapse of community and the correlative depersonalization of experience.” Joel M. Jones President, Fort Lewis College “To dance with dogs: The Liberal Art of Community Building” Liberal Education, 1998

11 Group skills are important in computer science “[H]ow a team behaves can be even more important than its professed goals.” Phillip G. Armour “The spiritual life of projects” Communications of the ACM January 2002

12 Particular importance in CS “The more high technology around us, the more the need for human touch.” John Naisbitt Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives 1982

13 Attracting and retaining students “Institutions should act so as to enable individuals to become congruent with and become integrated within (that is, establish competent membership within) the social and intellectual communities of the college. Insofar as integration is the direct outcome of wide-ranging personal contact among members of the institution, institutions should strive to provide a range of opportunities for interaction among members of the institution, especially in situations outside the formal confines of the academic system (e.g., classrooms)…

14 Attracting and retaining students …Successful institutions are, in this regard, like healthy communities and families, collectivities whose members reach out to one another in order to establish the social and intellectual bonds so important to community membership. Successful retention programs are vehicles for such bonding.” Vincent Tinto Leaving College: Rethinking the Causes and Cures of Student Attrition 1987

15 Attracting and retaining underrepresented students The limited evidence we have regarding programs for disadvantaged students suggests that their persistence depends greatly on academic support and, among disadvantaged minority students, also on the character of their social participation in the communities of the Institution.” Vincent Tinto Leaving College: Rethinking the Causes and Cures of Student Attrition 1987

16 Philosophy Vision for preparing computer scientists that are not only technically competent, but that are also strong communicators, are able to work effectively with others in diverse settings, and that can articulate ideas in both verbal and written form Faculty-student relationship is central to our mission as Christian educators

17 Philosophy Faculty must love, nurture, serve, lead and inspire our students, and thus encourage and equip them for lives of thoughtful Christian service and lifelong learning Model effective people skills by developing good rapport with the students View teaching as an act of service in which faculty gifts and talents are to be used to encourage and support students

18 Philosophy Aim toward transparency with our students Seek to nurture and care for them Strive to be encouraging to students who lack confidence or who are struggling Work to build community within CS program

19 Activities Weekly dinners with faculty/students Regular social events (BBQs, hot tub, etc.) Regular faculty prayer for students Women in CS/math support group Grace Hopper and SIGCSE student attendance Individual mentoring of students Department retreat Faculty attendance at student events Future goal: community service projects

20 Student barbecues



23 Weekly faculty-student dinners

24 Cookies

25 Valentine’s Day

26 Only You (Can Make My Code Compile) Adapted from Only You by Buck Ram and Andre Rand Only you can make my code compile, Only you can link my object files; Only you, and you alone, can loop me like you do And stack my queue with love for only you. Only you can make my errors right, For it's true: you make my code take flight. If you catch my heart you'll understand the values that I send; You're my dream come true, my one's complement!

27 Valentine’s Day

28 Support for fellow students

29 Female students


31 Department retreat

32 Observed student results Students working together Students playing together Students attending chapel together Students praying together Students ministering to each other Shy students becoming more social Students growing spiritually Students developing academic confidence Students describing our program as the major that “has the most fun together”

33 NSSE survey data Rate the quality of your relationships with other students on a scale from 1 (“unfriendly, unsupportive, sense of alienation”) to 7 (“friendly, supportive, sense of belonging”) The national averages for freshmen and seniors were 5.68 and 5.75, respectively The averages for freshmen and seniors at our institution were 6.00 and 5.91, respectively The averages for freshmen and senior CS majors at our institution were 6.20 and 6.40, respectively


35 NSSE survey data If you could start over again, would you go to the same institution you are now attending, on a scale of 1 (“definitely no”) to 4 (“definitely yes”) The national averages were 3.22 and 3.18 for seniors and freshmen, respectively The averages at our institution were 3.55 for freshman and 3.57 for seniors The average for CS majors at our institution was 3.80 for both freshmen and seniors


37 Conclusions As Christians, we are called to community It is both desirable and possible to build community in a computer science program Provided our philosophy and motivation Gave examples of relevant activities and events Presented some anecdotal evidence as well as quantitative results

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