MORRIS COUNTY — The Department of Information Technologies at County College of Morris (CCM) hopes to draw more women to its degree and certificate programs, while encouraging and supporting current students, thanks to a new partnership and grant award.
The college has become a partner in the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) Learning Circles program. Each “circle” consists of three computing departments and representatives from NCWIT. The designation includes a $10,000 award and funding for conference travel.
“The goal is to work with other educational institutions to establish a CCM plan for sustainable departmental and institutional practices that will attract and retain more women to our information technologies programs,” says Information Technologies Professor Nancy Binowski. NCWIT will assign the other two computing departments that will be working with CCM.
In the last decade, enrollment in CCM’s computing and technology courses of study has tripled, Binowski says, but the percentage of female students has remained unchanged.
“We’ve tried a lot of different things in our department and campus wide, and nothing we’ve done has made a dent,” Binowski says. “We’re hoping with this learning circle that we will learn what’s going to work for us.”
Currently about 16 percent of students enrolled in Information Technologies at CCM are female. Degrees are offered in Information Technology, Computer Science, Game Development, Technical Studies in Information Technology and Digital Media Technology. Certificates also are offered in Information Security, Media Technology and Web Development.
“Women are underrepresented. We make up more than half the population and we have men dictating the technology that we use,” Binowski says. “We need a place at the table so that technology reflects our wants, our needs, our designs and not somebody else’s.”
Binowski is assembling a cross-functional CCM team of faculty and staff from admissions, advising, academic success and student affairs.
Initiatives will include the establishment of a Women in IT Club to provide a network of female peers who can connect and support each other. Other goals include additional outreach to local high schools and middle schools to foster girls’ interest in technology, potentially through interaction with female college students on research or other projects.
CCM was one of 15 institutions chosen this year from 36 applicants nationwide. CCM members will begin meeting monthly with Learning Circle participants in 2020 to develop a plan that can be implemented in the second year of the program.
NCWIT, chartered in 2004 by the National Science Foundation, improves awareness and knowledge of computing fields with a three-prong approach. The organization sponsors an annual summit, provides free online resources and inspires young girls and women to pursue their interest in information technology.