Nguyen Receives SIGCSE 2020 Best Paper Honors

Harvey Mudd College computer science major An Nguyen ’22 received an award for Best Paper (CS education research track) from SIGCSE 2020 Technical Symposium judges.

Co-authored by computer science professor Colleen Lewis, Nguyen’s paper is titled “Competitive Enrollment Policies in Computing Departments Negatively Predict First-Year Students’ Sense of Belonging, Self-Efficacy, and Perception of Department.”

As computer science becomes a more popular area of study, institutions have responded by enacting competitive enrollment processes. However, little is known about the effects of enrollment policies on students’ experiences and retention.

“To identify relationships between those policies and students’ experiences, we linked survey data from 1,245 first-year students in 80 CS departments to a dataset of department policies,” says Nguyen. “We found that competitive enrollment negatively predicts first-year students’ perception of the computing department as welcoming, their sense of belonging and their self-efficacy in computing. Both belonging and self-efficacy are known predictors of student retention in CS. In addition, these relationships are stronger for students without pre-college computing experience. Our classification of institutions as competitive is conservative, and false positives are likely. This biases our results and suggests that the negative relationships we found are an underestimation of the effects of competitive enrollment.”

Future research will include interviewing faculty and administrators to more accurately classify department policies and to examine how first-year students’ experiences change over time following a change in enrollment policy at an institution.