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First Year Women @ GHC

Since 2006 I have helped lead trips of first-year students at Harvey Mudd College to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.  These trips became a huge success, attracting around 40 first year students every year.  We found that first-year students who attended GHC were more likely to take more CS classes and major in CS than those who did not.  Overall, GHC appears to be an incredibly positive experience for these students early in their career. 

I believe that all colleges and universities should strive to send younger students to GHC, and I am now working on establishing trips for first year students at UCSD.  This page provides some of the logistical details that will help make organizing these trips easier for you and your school.


We have written (or in one case are in the process of writing) several papers that give some of the details and many of the results of our trips with first-year students to GHC.  The best place to start learning about our efforts is by reading the following:

  • Using Targeted Conference to Recruit Women to Computer Science.  Christine Alvarado and Eugene Judson.  Communications of the ACM.  Accepted for Publication, to appear 2013 or 2014.  Here is a one-page summary of this article.

  • Increasing Women's Participation in Computing at Harvey Mudd College.  Christine Alvarado, Zachary Dodds, and Ran Libeskind-Hadas.  AMC Inroads, Special Issue on Broadening Participatoin, Vol. 3 No. 4, December 2012. [link from publications page].

  • Women in CS: An Evaluation of Three Promising Practices. Christine Alvarado and Zachary Dodds.  In Proceedings of SIGCSE 2010. March 10–13, 2010, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  © ACM, 2010. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in SIGCSE'10.

Recruiting and Selecting students

We recruit students primarily by email, and we .find that the recruitment timing makes a critical difference in the number of student who are interested in attending. In 2006 and 2007 we advertised the trip early in the fall semester and in both years we found that the number of students who applied to go was fewer than the number we could accommodate. In 2008-2010 we started recruiting in June, soon after students had accepted their admission to HMC. By mid-July we had as many committed students as we could accommodate. Fortunately, thus far we have been able to take all interested students.

To reach students before they arrive on campus, we coordinate with our admissions office to get the email addresses of all admitted female students.

You can find the link to the email we send to the students and potential mentors, and the application that both groups must complete below:


The trip is fully funded; we require that students pay only for meals during transit and for the meals that GHC does not provide during the conference. The cost of the trip is $600-$1000 per student depending on where the conference is. 

We have received both internal and external funds to finance this conference, for a total of between $25K-$40K per year.  Our department funds $5K per year, and the president's office funds another $5K, in addition to providing money for HMC to be a sponsor of the conference.  We have received external donations between $5K and $25K  from companies, alumni and individual donors. 

All money raised goes directly to fund the students.  A faculty member organizes the trip and does not receive any compensation for this effort apart from using some of this funding to fund their own travel to the conference.  They also receive some relief from other departmental service.  There are no administrative costs to run these trips.

We work with our Office of Advancement to identify potential donors.  Each potential donor receives a letter describing the conference, the statistics about women in CS both nationally and at HMC, and the documented benefits of sending women to this conference.  After the conference we send a thank-you letter to each donor describing the specific results the conference had on HMC students, based on the results of the survey (see below).  At UCSD, we offer donor companies an opportunity to attend a "recap GHC" event where they can hear about students experiences and talk them about the conference (and recruit them for internships and employment).

Travel and Lodging

We finalize the list of students who will attend the conference by the end of July, and book hotels, conference registration and flights immediately after the student list is finalized.  We negotiate group rates with airlines, and reserve shuttle vans to transport the students to and from the airport on either end.  GHC hotels book up early, so it is essential to book hotel rooms as early as possible.  Students are placed 4 per room.

During the trip upper class mentors help with the logistics of travel as well as serve as a resource for first-year students. We typically bring about one upper-class mentor for every four first-year students, and distribute the mentors across the hotel rooms. Mentors are responsible for handing out and collecting the surveys, for making sure that all of the students are accounted for during the trip, and for alerting the lead faculty member of any issues that arise during the trip.

Assessment Instruments

 We have been administering the same pre and post survey over the past several years.  We make it available here for anyone who would like to perform a similar assessment and we welcome feedback on our surveys.
Christine Alvarado,
Sep 18, 2012, 2:39 PM
Christine Alvarado,
Sep 18, 2012, 2:39 PM
Christine Alvarado,
Jul 3, 2013, 10:21 AM
Christine Alvarado,
Sep 18, 2012, 4:39 PM