Science Leaders II provides pathway for computer science transfer students

Christine Chung, Tempel Professor of Computer Science, works with a student.
Christine Chung, Tempel Professor of Computer Science, works with a student.

With a $200,000 grant from the Booth Ferris Foundation, Connecticut College will create a new pathway for talented underrepresented students from community colleges to transfer to Connecticut College and complete bachelor’s degrees in computer science.

Modeled on the College’s signature Science Leaders program, Science Leaders II recruits cohorts of students from select two-year colleges and community colleges. Since 2007, Science Leaders has significantly increased the number of students from underrepresented groups graduating from Connecticut College with degrees in the sciences.

“The Science Leaders II program in computer science is designed to allow transfer students from community colleges to complete a degree in computer science from a liberal arts college,” said Gary Parker, professor and chair of the Computer Science Department at Connecticut College. “The focus on a single major will aid in the formation of a close-knit cohort that will experience a similar transition to Connecticut College, a top-tier liberal arts college. This program will minimize the number of course credits to be transferred between institutions.”

The College launched the original Science Leaders program with a substantial grant from the National Science Foundation. Of the 43 student participants, 91 percent have graduated within four years, and more than a third have gone on to pursue advanced degrees in science, medicine or other health-related fields.

In February, the College announced it would expand its flagship Science Leaders program by launching Science Leaders II to include students transferring from two-year and community colleges into the biochemistry major at Connecticut College. This new grant from the Booth Ferris Foundation allows the College to further expand Science Leaders II to now include the computer science major.

To be eligible for the Science Leaders II computer science program, students must complete certain core courses at their two-year colleges, including discrete math, introductory computer science, data structures, computer organization, and 200-level computer science electives. Science Leaders II participants will enter Connecticut College as juniors, take an algorithms course as a cohort, complete the remaining major requirements, and graduate with bachelor degrees in two years.

At Connecticut College, participants will receive financial aid, mentoring, academic support, career advising and assistance with applying to graduate school or jobs in the industry from a team of faculty, career and peer advisers. The students will also take several classes together, which will allow them to form tight-knit groups that will serve as important sources of support as they navigate Connecticut College’s rigorous computer science curriculum.

“I am so glad that this program will play an active part in leveling the playing field in computer science by providing access to deserving, bright, hard-working students that have, in the past, been shut out of such opportunities due only to circumstances out of their control,” said Christine Chung, Tempel Professor of Computer Science at the College.

Current students in the original four-year Science Leaders program agree it has been critical to fostering their research goals.

"Partaking in Professor Parker's robotics seminar as a first-year student reignited my passion for computer science,” said Mohammad Khan ’17. “Since that seminar, I have been motivated to pursue research in artificial intelligence and refine my skills as a teaching assistant.”

August 5, 2015