The following is a special contribution to this blog by CCC Council Member Ran Libeskind-Hadas and CRA Board Member Susanne Hambrusch, Co-Chairs of CRA-E.
The CRA Education Committee’s (CRA-E) mission is to address society’s need for a continuous supply of talented and well-educated computing researchers. The committee’s efforts include both research on the state of the “domestic student pipeline” and developing resources to maintain its health.
The fraction of Ph.D. students who are domestic (U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents) has been in decline over the last several decades from around 70% in the mid-1980’s to under 50% in recent years. A 2013 CRA-E report shows that a small number of departments have accounted for most of the production of domestic undergraduates going on to Ph.D. programs: From 2000 to 2010, approximately 50% of Ph.D.’s awarded to domestic students come from 54 institutions of baccalaureate origin and the other 50% come from over 747 institutions.
Evidence suggests that many CS graduate programs find it increasingly difficult to recruit domestic students to their Ph.D. programs. A recent CRA-E study examined over 7000 graduate admissions records from domestic students made to 14 departments between 2007 and 2013. While the average admission rate for domestic students in this group was 35%, the range was wide. The average domestic admission rates for schools ranked 1-10 (by U.S. News and World Report) was 25% and the average for schools ranked 11-70 was about 50%, with a range from 29% to 70%. The data also showed that undergraduates from Master’s institutions and RU/H schools are a significant source of applicants but are underrepresented in the set of admitted students.
The CRA-E and other groups have been working on a variety of ways to support the domestic graduate pipeline. The new Conquer website (COmputer ScieNce UndErgraduate Research) provides valuable resources for undergraduates and faculty mentors. Among these are:
- Candid advice and resources on graduate school and how to apply.
- Comprehensive resources for finding summer research positions.
- Resources for advising undergraduates on graduate school.
- Resources for supervising undergraduates in research.
- A full slide deck for a presentation entitled “Why Go To Graduate School?” (field tested at Purdue and Harvey Mudd)
- A site for listing undergraduate summer research opportunities.
In addition, CRA-E will be holding workshops on “Best practices in mentoring undergraduate research” at major CS research conferences over the next two years. The objective of the workshops is to help faculty – and particularly new faculty – to effectively engage undergraduates in research. Some recent studies from CRA’s Center for Evaluating the Research Pipeline (CERP) suggest that well-designed research experiences can be formative for undergraduates and may be particularly effective in encouraging students to consider graduate school and careers in research.
Please help support our efforts by:
- Telling your students and colleagues about the Conquer website and adding a link to the site from your webpage and your department’s page.
- Encourage your colleagues to involve undergraduates in their research.
- Offer at least one information session each year on graduate school and careers in research. The Conquer site has a slide deck that can be used as-is or modified to your institution’s needs.
Conquer is a joint effort of the Computing Research Association (CRA), the education committee of CRA (CRA-E ), the Computing Community Consortium (CCC), Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W), the Coalition to Diversify Computing (CDC), and the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT).