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Douglass Residential College

Advancing Women in Computer Science (AWiCS) Awarded Presidential Award for Service to Students

On December 11, 2023, the Rutgers Advancing Women in Computer Science (AWiCS) group was awarded the Presidential Award for Service to Students. AWiCS is an inter-unit collaborative initiative between Douglass Residential College, the School of Arts and Sciences, the Computer Science Department, and DIMACS. The group works to advance women in computer science across university offerings including through department coursework, enrichment programs, and structural change. Three Douglass staff members are leaders on the project, including Dean Meghan Rehbein on the steering committee as well as Dr. Lydia Prendergast and Dr. Hayet Bensetti Benbadar on the programming committee.

Douglass WiSE and Dean Rehbein in front of "R" Rutgers sign with awards
Dean Meghan Rehbein, Dr. Lydia Prendergast, and Dr. Hayet Bensetti Benbadar at the Ceremony.

The Douglass Computer Science Living-Learning Community (CSLLC) and career development initiatives through the Douglass Women in Science and Engineering Program (WiSE) are key components of AWiCS’s undergraduate student-facing work.

Students in the Computer Science Living-Learning Community live together on Busch campus, take a credit-bearing computer science course, and access special STEM mentors and opportunities. The goal of the community is to build STEM identity and a genuine sense of belonging for Douglass students pursuing computer science, which is proven to be critical to improving retention rates among women in STEM disciplines.

“I feel honored and appreciated that Rutgers leadership deems this to be an important cause and worthy of an award,” said Associate Dean of Douglass WiSE and AWiCS member, Dr. Lydia Prendergast.

Each year, the CSLLC accepts up to 40 first year Douglass students. After the first year, students receive ongoing support throughout their time at Rutgers and are offered continuing opportunities to live together. Douglass WiSE also offers career development programming to Douglass students in computer science through Douglass WiSE WORKS (Workforce Opportunities and Resources for kCareers in STEM). WORKS programs include a STEM career readiness course, STEM networking nights, graduate school fairs, and opportunities to shadow industry professionals. Douglass is thrilled to be able to bring these programs to the table as part of the AWiCS initiative.

“Receiving continued support and this award confirms for me that my work supporting women in STEM is critical and impactful,” said Dr. Prendergast.

AWiCS is just one component of Douglass’ mission to increase gender diversity in STEM. The College runs a wide range of STEM programming through the Douglass Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) program. The goal of WiSE is to cultivate students’ STEM identity and provide experiences that complement academics in the pursuit of a career in STEM. At the core of WiSE’s mission is the support for persistence in majors where there is a historical and continued gender disparity at the university level and in the workforce, including engineering, formal sciences, and natural sciences. Learn more about Douglass WiSE here.

Learn more about the ceremony here!