College recommendation for CompSci
February 16, 2017 6:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm running a Girls Who Code club, and was asked for a few college recommendations.

Specifically, colleges that have a strong CompSci program that might include focus on:
* Embedded Software
* Computer Security

Any recommendations?
posted by pyro979 to Education (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd look into Smith College Comp Sci. I didn't go to Smith, but I have a couple family members who did and, in retrospect, I wish I had too. The advantage of Smith is that you're part of the Five Colleges system and can take classes at any of the other four colleges (Amherst College, UMass Amherst, Mt. Holyoke and Hampshire College) to fulfill requirements. From the friends and relatives I know who've gone there, Smith is very supportive of its students and there's a lot of structure to help women succeed.
posted by bendy at 8:42 PM on February 16, 2017

Brown has a strong CS program, and the culture of undergraduate TAs / mentorship makes it more of a family than most departments. There is also a Women in computer science group that holds regular events, and strong industry recruiting.

Jeff Huang, in particular, is strong on the UX/UI side of things.
posted by batter_my_heart at 8:56 PM on February 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

University of WI - Madison has a highly regarded CS program. And the Electrical/Computer engineering and Robotics programs are also very good.
Full disclosure - my alma mater.

University of Illinois U-C also has a very good CS program, possibly better than Madison depending on the discipline.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:08 PM on February 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Harvey Mudd College has been getting a lot of attention for its efforts around gender diversity in CS.
posted by jimw at 9:26 PM on February 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Chiming in without specific recommendations but to say that at the undergraduate level, I think it's less important what the department's focus is and more important that the student find an institution and a department that are a good fit for her. One mistake that experts sometimes make when approaching this question is that they think about it like they're advising a grad student, not an undergrad. So, for instance, the overall culture of the institution doesn't typically matter very much to grad students but can be very important to undergrads. If there's a very strong CS department at a college that is overall very football-and-partying oriented, then nerdy CS undergrads might not be very happy, despite the strength of the CS program. (Football-and-partying-oriented CS majors might think that's great.) Similarly, sometimes programs that are very strong at the graduate level take a real sink-or-swim approach to undergrads, which can be great for undergrads who are able to function like grad students right off the bat, but can lead to attrition by students who could have been successful at a more undergrad-focused institution. So basically, I would probably recommend that students look at the colleges that would otherwise appeal to them and then explore the strength of the CS program, rather than vice versa. And when exploring the strength of the CS program, female students should ask some fairly pointed questions about gender diversity. What percentage of students in upper-level CS classes are women? What about faculty and TAs? Can she meet with some CS undergrads who are women?

Having said that, in addition to Harvey Mudd, Carnegie Mellon is often cited as an institution that has done a good job recruiting women to its undergrad CS major. I have no idea how it functions on all the stuff that I mentioned above though!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:08 AM on February 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

My alma mater is St. Cloud State University. It is accredited, very low cost of living here, large international student population, a few female professors (my advisor has since retired, but I recognize others there from *cough*15 years ago *cough*). I don't know what the ratios are now, but there were quite a few women in my classes then, I'd say at least a third. There are software companies in town, further north, and in the main urban Twin Cities area, for internships and jobs post-graduation.

Now, UI/UX seems to me to be a different kettle of fish than computer science. It looks like at least one of the professors in the Art department has a focus on the UX/UI aspects.
posted by jillithd at 8:41 AM on February 17, 2017

I know one of the professors at Smith and it is, indeed, a good program although I don't think it has the specifics you're looking for.
I went to Oberlin and the CS program is top-notch and at most recent glance has course in cryptology, data mining/machine learning, and security.
posted by plinth at 8:44 AM on February 17, 2017

Harvey Mudd is a very demanding school that places a high emphasis on the general sciences and the liberal arts, so students will spend about two thirds of their time on those subjects, and only a minority in their major. That makes it tough to specialize in terms of CS classes, because most are already occupied by basic requirements: intro to programming, algorithms, software development process, etc. However, they also have a mandatory "clinic" program where a team of seniors works with a real company to research and develop a product, so there's definitely an opportunity to "deep dive". Personally, I think learning to work hard and getting a broad exposure to the sciences in an interdisciplinary setting is invaluable, and would leave the specialization until later, but that's not the case for everyone.

The campus is full of wacky types, there's a strong Honor Code, it's all-undergraduate so the faculty are much more focussed on teaching, and the undergrads therefore do research. It's also gob-smackingly expensive. I had a great time.
posted by wnissen at 9:03 AM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I asked a Group of People Who Should Know Such Things this weekend and got another vote for Carnegie Mellon, for what that's worth.
posted by wnissen at 9:13 PM on February 27, 2017

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