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Contact:
Barbara Laskin
651-696-6203

Macalester College Receives $586,500 NSF Grant to Support
Computer Science Students

St. Paul, Minn. - March 19, 2009 - Macalester College today announced that it has received a $586,500 grant from the National Science Foundation to support students majoring in Computer Science or minoring in Computer Science and majoring in another science field who show financial need and demonstrated interest.  The grant will also support activities for the Macalester Information Technology (Mac IT) Scholars Program.

Computer science undergraduate enrollments are dropping throughout the country. Historically, participation by women and underrepresented groups continues to be quite low while projected demand for jobs in computing and information technology fields is higher than most professions.

By taking advantage of the college's urban location, the Macalester Information Technology Scholars Program (Mac IT Scholars) seeks to change this current climate by increasing participation of undergraduates in computing fields and changing their perceptions of what it means to work with information technology.

“Young people need to realize that there are so many remarkable ways that advances in computing and human-computer interaction can benefit society,” said Libby Shoop, grant co-author with Susan Fox, both associate professors in Macalester’s Mathematics and Computer Science Department.  “We believe that by going in to the community, our students may be able to change current perceptions about the field and increase participation in Computer Science.”

This grant will allow Mac IT Scholars and other interested students to learn more about the many varied careers available in computing and information technology and how computing skills benefit every field of science and society.

“Students will explore these benefits through a wide variety of activities hosted by the Mac IT Scholars program,” said Fox.

The Mac IT scholars will take advantage of special mentoring by computer science faculty, actively participate in career panels featuring Mac alums and others who as using computing to benefit society and attend conferences dedicated to diversity in computer science, where they will be able to network with professionals at high-tech firms across the country. 

Students will also be able to participate in an online mentoring program called MentorNet, which enables them to learn about careers in computing and computer science research from a mentor of their choosing. 

“Because of the many technology and science-related opportunities in the Twin Cities area, we expect every Mac IT Scholar to complete at least one IT-related internship and discuss their experience with other students at the end of each semester,” said Shoop.

For those students interested in teaching or becoming mentors and giving back to the community, they will have opportunities to become peer tutors in introductory courses, teach at middle schools through the Breakthrough Collaborative program, or present "CS (Computer Science) road shows" to younger students in middle and high schools in the Twin Cities area. 

“We believe that all of these activities will enable us to form a community of students, faculty, mentors, alums, and young people who wish to benefit society by improving the lives of others through advances in computing,” said Fox.

Macalester College, founded in 1874, is a national liberal arts college with a
full-time enrollment of 1,884 students. Macalester is nationally recognized for its long-standing commitment to academic excellence, internationalism, multiculturalism and civic engagement.