NCWIT is excited to name Dr. Patricia Morreale, Professor and Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Technology at Kean University, the recipient of the 2023 Joanne McGrath Cohoon Service Award.
The award, sponsored by AT&T, honors distinguished educators and staff who have effectively challenged and changed the systems that shape the experiences of women undergraduates in postsecondary computing programs. Award recipients demonstrate exceptional commitment to, and success in, creating long-lasting systemic change that improves the environment for all students who identify as women. The award is given in memory of Dr. Cohoon’s outstanding research and advocacy work to broaden and enrich women’s participation in computing.
Dr. Morreale’s devotion to creating systemic change that significantly improves the environment for women and other historically excluded students is evident in her work as Professor and Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Technology at Kean University. Through efforts that span the NCWIT Systemic Change model, she helped increase women’s enrollment from 15 to 20 percent in computer science (CS) despite a 60 percent increase in overall enrollment from 2015 through 2022. Fifty percent of these women are from historically excluded groups.
Recognized as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for “exceptional leadership and service to advance diversity in computing and for substantial research in multimedia systems and networks,” Morreale has led committees on faculty excellence in undergraduate research mentoring with the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), the Computing Research Association (CRA) and the Council of Undergraduate Research (CUR). She is a past co-chair of NCWIT’s Higher Ed Alliance. Dr. Morreale is a member of the Higher Ed Alliance Advisory Board and the Executive Board of the Computing Alliance for Hispanic Serving Institutions (CAHSI), where she leads the north region. She is a New Jersey State Department of Education Computer Science Advisory Committee member, focusing on NJ K-12 education. Dr. Morreale serves on six Community-College Advisory Boards and helped develop of the NJ State CS Plan, requiring NJ high schools to offer CS courses.
In recommending Dr. Morreale for the award, Dr. Ann Gates, Vice Provost at The University of Texas at El Paso and Executive Director of CAHSI wrote, ”Dr. Morreale has adopted and disseminated CAHSI’s signature practices and shares her department’s impactful efforts to other CAHSI institutions. Under Dr. Morreale’s leadership, the CAHSI North region grew from two universities to 23 colleges and universities in Illinois, New Jersey, Virginia, and New York. She serves on the Executive Committee of the CAHSI INCLUDES Alliance and has been instrumental in the alliance’s impact.”
Working with colleagues at NCWIT, Dr. Morreale co-authored NCWIT’s REU-in-a-Box: Expanding the Pool of Computing Researchers. This resource explains the benefits of undergraduate research experiences in computing, with content developed by experienced computing faculty mentors and undergraduate researchers. This resource focuses on the interactions of a faculty mentor with one or a few students and the processes by which they conduct and share the outcomes of their research. She spearheaded an effort to increase both the incidence and visibility of REUs at Kean, with more than 100 percent of faculty participating over the past five years and 50 percent co-authoring with students. Annually, half of the graduating students have participated in research, 26% women. She has also developed virtual REUs which are now distributed through CAHSI, where 61 students (42 percent women) and 29 faculty members from 15 schools participated in virtual REU opportunities in 2022. The project formalizes best practices in research experiences to reach more students, particularly women from historically excluded groups, and prepares them for graduate study.
Dr. Morreale led a faculty team that revised the first course in computing to be engaging and include peer mentoring, which resulted in a 5% increase in student retention. In addition, faculty teaching CS0/CS1/Data Structures use a growth mindset pedagogy with feedback to students, significantly improving academic outcomes for women while reducing race and ethnicity gaps. Kean’s first and second-year courses in computing now use the growth mindset approach.
Student supports she’s established include a peer mentoring program, supplemental instruction, improved teaching, growth mindset pedagogy, and access to undergraduate research opportunities. She’s created pathways to help women succeed in the department. Dr. Morreale implemented a standing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee in her department in 2020 to ensure that all students have equitable access to opportunities like internships and placements, a Career Education course, and use of the Alumna network, resulting in more women succeeding in interviews and getting offers from national companies, including Accenture, Google GM, and JPMorgan.
Under her leadership, revised hiring policies and procedures have led to excellent and diverse faculty hires, including five women since Dr. Morreale became Chair. Almost half of faculty are female. Faculty receive Growth-Mindset and Equitable Software-Design training. Faculty involvement in admissions led to enrollment growth over 10 years in a competitive higher-education context.
Dr. Morreale earned her B.S. from Northwestern University, an M.S. from the University of Missouri, and a Ph.D. from Illinois Institute of Technology, all in Computer Science. Prior to joining academia, she worked in industry. Morreale’s research on machine learning and network systems led to advances in error detection and secure processing, patented and commercialized. Her research on human-centered computing addresses equitable software design and education methods. She also works on broadening participation in computer science, focused on faculty development and undergraduate research engagement.
She joined Kean University in 2006 and took over as Chair of the Department in 2011. She received CUR’s Faculty Mentoring Award for Math and Computer Science and Kean University’s Faculty Research Mentoring award. She has published three books and numerous journal and conference papers.
NCWIT is delighted to recognize Dr. Morreale’s commitment to, and success in, creating long-lasting systemic change that improves the environment for all students, and her tireless efforts to support and enrich computing education for women and other historically excluded students.