colleges, universities, and industry partners in order to replicate
the cohort model.
INTEGRATION WITH THE CSUMB STUDENT BODY
Strong bonds within each cohort are key to creating the supportive, cohort-based learning environment of CSin3. However, these strong bonds can lead CSin3 students to only socialize
with each other, and not form new connections with CSUMB
students, even after transfer. Differing backgrounds of CSin3
students, who are largely Hispanic and from the Salinas Valley,
compared to the larger CSUMB student community, which has
fewer underrepresented minority students than Hartnell, may
also play a role.
Undoubtedly, students in CSin3 receive personalized attention significantly greater than what a traditional student typically receives. While CSin3 students sacrifice flexibility and
time in order to receive this benefit, this attention still has significant benefits. Continuing such attention on cohort program
students while addressing perceived favoritism sometimes expressed by traditional CSUMB students is a challenge.
The status quo of low graduation rates for underrepresented
students is not acceptable at a time when computing jobs are in
high demand and offer a path to upward social mobility. CSin3’s
innovative design balances several goals related to student success, institutional resources, and industry needs in order to address key factors contributing to these less-than-ideal results.
While this paper outlines details of the specific operations and
implementation of CSin3, it is not the suggestion of the authors
that all components be replicated precisely or in full. Rather, we
offer the key principles below as a model for increasing diversity, retention and degree completion rates, and transition to
industry in a high-demand field like computer science.
Partnerships that extend beyond institutional boundaries. In order to serve a diverse student body that includes many
low-income, first generation students, it is critical to develop a
program that meets students where they are and guides them
forward. Breaking down silos within and across institutions
particularly the boundaries between community college and
university is necessary for accomplishing that objective.
Organizing students into cohorts. Building a learning
community of students and developing expected norms for
behavior, engagement, and work ethic reinforces good habits,
creates operational efficiencies, and leads to increased student
Support that is both close in time and in proximity.
Offering a single point of contact (or a small team) who tracks student progress, interfaces directly with every student, and can
respond to individual student and cohort needs in real-time,
allows students to focus their time and energy on developing
the knowledge, skills, and experiences that will keep them on
track to graduation and have successful careers in industry.
A defined pathway that guarantees graduation in a set time.
Would CSin3 students have chosen to attend or transfer to
CSUMB if they were not a part of CSin3? Many CSin3 students
had GPAs that would allow them to be accepted at other, more
highly ranked institutions farther from home. Perhaps CSin3
students are not comparable to CSUMB graduates. It is worth
noting, however, that low-income students who can attend other institutions may choose to attend college close to home to
lower costs [ 15].
Partnerships with industry. The visibility of the CSin3 program has led to connections with industry partners, who find
access to a concentration of well-prepared graduates from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds valuable. Since the
start of the CSin3 program, CSUMB has had campus visits
from partners who had not visited previously, including Lyft,
Uber, Amazon, Salesforce, Apple, Facebook, and others.
Industry partnerships do not only benefit CSin3 students.
While recruiters may initially ask for access to CSin3 students,
they are connected with high-performing students from within
the entire computer science program.
CSin3 as a test lab and lever for change. The structured
nature of cohort model lends itself to a relatively easy introduction of new initiatives that require additional student time.
The success of PLTL within CSin3 motivated a re-structuring of
CSUMB’s CS1 and CS2 labs to build PLTL into the course curriculum. Resume preparation and technical interview practice
began as a mandatory CSin3 activity, but was expanded to all
CSin3 has also inspired the creation of other cohorts. The
culture within the first CSin3 cohort immediately motivated
the program team to launch a cohort-based four-year program
to serve incoming freshmen at CSUMB, called CS++. At the
time of submission, there have been four cohorts of CS++ students at various stages of pipeline showing similar promise of
engagement and results.
COSTS AND SUSTAINABILITY
CSin3 has significant upfront costs, especially the salaries of
related staff and the financial aid for students. However, the
costs of intensive programs like CSin3 must be weighed against
the costs of delayed transfer and graduation times, both to students, to the state, and to industry.
CSUMB and Hartnell have been successful at securing grants
and foundation support to fund CSin3, but it is understood that
such support cannot continue indefinitely. In fact, CSin3 will
transition to partial financial support in AY 2018-2019, after a
foundation partner completed five years of scholarship support.
The program team is currently spearheading an effort called
Computing Talent Initiative2 to build partnerships with other