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Young Women in Computing program celebrates 15 years

In 2006, women made up just 18 percent of college students enrolled in computer science majors nationwide. At NMSU, only 8 percent of computer science students were women. That was the climate in which College of Arts and Sciences Dean Enrico Pontelli, then a Regents’ Professor in computer science, launched the Young Women in Computing program. In 2021, the program celebrated its 15th anniversary. 

Over time, YWiC steadily increased the number of high school and middle school students participating in the program. By 2019, the NMSU computer science department was serving about 21 percent women and ranked 22nd among four-year public universities in the U.S. for enrolling and graduating women in computer science, according to data compiled and analyzed by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“The trend right now is artificial intelligence, and data analytics are bigger than computer science,” Pontelli says. “We’re in the process of shifting the focus of the program away from strictly computer science to AI and data analytics. If we can engage students in those topics and get them interested, then whatever field they decide to go into – medicine, sociology, criminal justice – they have those very important tools and the skills to solve problems.”

YWiC Summer Camp participants in 2018