Undergraduate System Model

The Higher Ed Alliance recommends a strategic, sustainable approach for recruiting and retaining undergraduate women, genderqueer, and nonbinary individuals of all intersectional identities that focuses on revising educational systems for an inclusive experience for all students.

Explore the model and find actionable strategies and practices by clicking on each component title below.

NCWIT's Undergraduate Programs Systems Change Model
A dark green square pop-out from the change model that reads "Program Entry"

Actionable Steps and Practices

The goal of this focus area is to attract and enroll a diverse range of students in your computing program.

  • Use a “high yield in the short term” approach by focusing recruiting efforts on students who can be in the program in the next 1-3 years and have relevant interests (e.g., students considering STEM majors)
  • Use positive, targeted messaging that highlights aspects of computing that prospective students care about, such as high-quality jobs and real-world impact
  • Expand your reach by utilizing existing initiatives and collaborating with other people who reach prospective students. Ensure that others represent computing and your program accurately (e.g., by providing talking points)
  • Examine pathways into the program for processes that may disadvantage some students, such as unnecessary prerequisites for introductory courses or admissions policies that require prior computing experience
  • View introductory courses as opportunities to recruit students who haven’t declared or might change their majors
  • Offer majors, minors, tracks, and courses that connect to students’ interests and career goals
A teal square pop-out from the change model that reads "Classroom Experience"

Actionable Steps and Practices

The goal of this focus area is to implement effective pedagogical practices that foster student learning in a civil, inclusive environment. 

  • Use high-impact student-centered teaching practices
  • Emphasize real-world relevance and positive social impacts of computing in course content and assignments
  • Utilize equitable grading practices and give students frequent, timely feedback
  • Get to know your students by asking about topics such as their interests and goals, level of preparation, and concerns about the course (e.g., with a short survey)
  • Establish expectations and guidelines for civil behavior in both physical and virtual spaces
  • Design classes and class materials to be accessible

Actionable Steps and Practices

The goal of this focus area is to create a welcoming community and offer experiences that promote students’ sense of belonging in the program and in computing. 

  • Educate and expect faculty, staff, and students to create a positive, welcoming environment
  • Actively recruit women and students from historically underrepresented populations for opportunities such as research, conference attendance, internships, and mentorship programs that enable them to connect with faculty, mentors, and other students while gaining valuable career preparation
  • Ensure that a diverse range of students have access to and hold leadership positions within the program, such as teaching assistant, ambassador, tutor, or mentor, to build their confidence and provide role models for other students
  • Portray diversity in computing as ordinary and expected by ensuring that a range of identities are represented throughout the program, e.g., among invited speakers, promotional materials, write-ups of current events, class examples, etc.
  • Create welcoming, inclusive physical and virtual spaces that encourage positive interaction and collaboration among students
  • Support student affinity groups, such as Women in Computing


A pop-out of the undergrad change model that reads "Program Curriculum & Supports"

Actionable Steps and Practices

The goal of this focus area is to ensure that the program’s curriculum and support structures promote academic success, professional preparation, and timely progress through the program for all students.

  • Ensure that students with varying levels of prior computing experience can succeed in the program, e.g., by providing supplemental instruction and/or separate introductory courses designed for students with different levels of preparation
  • Design a program curriculum that supports timely progress and avoids “pinch points” where students struggle or are likely to leave
  • Prepare students to achieve their professional goals with experiences such as research, internships, capstones, and e-portfolios
  • Require regular advising to create individualized course plans and track students’ progress
  • Monitor student performance to detect problems early, and ensure that students are aware of and utilize support services
  • Carefully select and train teaching assistants, tutors, and other people in student-support roles to ensure that they provide effective, inclusive support
The middle panel of the undergrad change model reads "institutionalization"

Actionable Steps and Practices

The goal of this focus area is to institutionalize the policies and practices that support broadening participation to ensure sustainable, long-lasting systemic change. Engagement of institutional leaders is particularly important for success in this focus area.

  • Receive visible support and sufficient resources for broadening participation from institutional leaders
  • Create, maintain, and enforce inclusive, student-supportive policies
  • Formalize, expect, and reward broadening participation efforts from faculty and staff
  • Educate faculty and staff about topics relevant to broadening participation
  • Connect with other campus offices and personnel that can help with broadening participation efforts
  • Create and maintain a program-wide strategic plan that supports broadening participation
  • Pursue internal and external funding to support broadening participation initiatives



A circle underlying the undergrad system change model that reads "Data & Evaluation"

Actionable Steps and Practices

The goal of this focus area is to utilize data collection, analysis, and reporting to inform decisions and monitor progress.

  • Implement a data plan and designate the person(s) responsible for ensuring that data are regularly analyzed, shared, and used to improve the program
  • Track data related to student recruiting and program entry, including implementation and effectiveness of recruiting efforts, admissions data, and data on students enrolled in intro courses
  • Track data related to program climate and student experience
  • Track data related to student retention and outcomes, including course evaluations and DFW rates, year-to-year persistence, and graduations
  • Track outcomes of interventions, activities, and programs for broadening participation
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