Characteristics and Practices of Virginia's Computer Science and Biology Departments, 1992 - 1997

J. McGrath Cohoon
Department of Leadership, Foundations, & Policy
University of Virginia

Faculty and chairpersons at Virginia's Computer Science and Biology departments participated in a survey conducted by J. McGrath Cohoon in 1998. The goal of this survey was to gather information on factors that could contribute to undergraduate attrition from the major. 

This document reports descriptive data gathered from the survey and from other sources. The survey data were collected from 210 responding faculty and 45 responding chairpersons. The overall response rate was 68.4%. 

The data presented in this report describe characteristics and practices of the coeducational departments that participated in the survey. For all the concepts listed below, the relevant survey questions are quoted, then departmental and discipline means are listed. In the tables of results, departments are identified by a number so that confidentiality could be maintained while still allowing participants to compare their results with those of other departments. Chairpersons were mailed the identifying number for their own department.    

Gendered Attrition Rates
Working Conditions
Support for Students
Prospects for Graduates
Gender Composition
Faculty Expectations
Emphasis on Teaching
Pedagogical Practices

The descriptive data reported here were part of Cohoon's dissertation research. In addition to the survey and discipline comparisons, the full project included two other major components. The first major component preceded the survey. It was on-site interviews of students, faculty, and chairpersons at five Computer Science departments. The second major component made use of the quantitative data collected from the survey and other sources. It was statistical analyses that identified the factors associated with gendered attrition from undergraduate computer science.

Data collection for this project was supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Data for calculating the dependent variable was supplied by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. The support of both these organizations is greatly appreciated.

The Center for Survey Research at the University of Virginia mailed and tracked surveys, telephoned late respondents, and entered data. Their help made this project manageable.

More information about this research and its results is available from J. McGrath Cohoon.