San Diego, CA, March 30, 2017 -- UC San Diego computer science teaching professor Christine Alvarado has been honored by campus with a 2016 Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Diversity Award.
Alvarado works tirelessly to broaden the participation of underrepresented groups in computer science... through her teaching, research and mentoring, according to colleagues who wrote nominating letters.
For example, Alvarado helped develop the AP Computer Science Principles curriculum and test, a new AP Computer Science course aimed at bringing more students into computing by showcasing its broad range of ideas, applications and impacts.
Alvarado has also held key positions in the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and the National Center for Women and Information Technology Academic Alliance.
She has made “pivotal contributions” in the development of online courses in Java programming (jointly with fellow UC San Diego computer science teaching professors Leo Porter and Mia Minnes), and the courses have already been viewed by tens of thousands of learners all over the world on the Coursera online platform.
Alvarado is an important mentor and source of inspiration for students in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering within the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. She is a faculty advisor to the student organizations Women in Computing (WIC) as well as Graduate Women in Computing (GradWIC). As part of her research mandate, Alvarado is also documenting and analyzing the discrepancy between the number of women accepted into the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the eventual enrollment statistics.
“Women make up 25 to 30 percent of accepted CSE students,” notes Alvarado, “yet they account for only 18 percent of the department's first-year enrollments and only 12 percent of transfer students.”
At this year’s premier conference on computer science education research, Alvarado will present a parallel study on undergraduate gender differences related to confidence and attitudes toward computer science.
Above all, Alvarado is widely acknowledged as a leader in innovative approaches to computer science education, especially at the undergraduate level. Underrepresented students have been important beneficiaries of the Early Research Scholars Program for sophomores, thanks to funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), and many of these students continue to engage in research in the department after their participation in the program. Also with NSF funding, in 2016 she and colleagues Mia Minnes and Leo Porter also implemented a new course structure for large-format courses. By dividing a large section of 200 students into seven smaller “micro-classes,” students felt a stronger sense of community within the course, an effect that has been shown to help retain students from underrepresented groups.
Prior to joining the computer science faculty in 2012, Alvarado was a professor of computer science at Harvey Mudd College. In 2013 she received the A. Richard Newton Educator ABIE Award from the Anita Borg Institute for her contributions to diversity in computer science education. Alvarado received her Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in computer science from MIT in 2000 and 2004, respectively, after earning her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College in 1998.
Story written by Doug Ramsey.