FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            Contact: Patricia Quigley

January 21, 2009                                                                                 (856) 256-4241


Rowan program aims to promote computer science among minorities, women


While its name sounds humorous, the FATPIPE program at Rowan University actually has very serious intentions.


FATPIPE is the acronym for Rowan’s computer science pipeline program, “Facilitating Academic Triumph by Providing an Integrated Pipeline Experience.”


Started in 2007 by Dr. John Robinson, a Rowan computer science instructor/UNIX systems administrator, FATPIPE is designed to attract more minorities and women into the field of computer science.


Noted Robinson, who developed the program based on his doctoral dissertation, “Closing the Race and Gender Gaps in Computer Science Education, “Typically computer science is perceived as a male-dominated discipline, and particularly a white male-dominated discipline.”


FATPIPE seeks to enhance the diversity, retention and success of students in undergraduate computer science education at Rowan, which will help ensure that a continuum of graduates exists who will fill roles in industry, education and research occupations.


“Basically, I started this because we live in a technological society, and as computer science educators I feel we’re ethically bound to prepare students to survive in this technological society,” Robinson said. “By getting students into the major – and this includes all STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors — and creating this continuum of students who go on to become future educators and mentors, we’ll be able to help fill technical positions in this society that we live in.”


FATPIPE comprises several components designed to facilitate the success of students entering the computer science major, targeting underrepresented populations, according to Robinson.


Among those components is a learning community segment called Learning in Bits and Bytes (LiBBy). LiBBy helps up to 20 incoming computer science freshmen form bonds through linking courses, requiring the participants to take two low-enrollment freshmen classes together with specially selected professors, housing the students together and offering them mentoring and extracurricular activities.



FATPIPE also offers the Computer Science Alternate Route Program (CSAR), which provides an alternate path into the computer science major for students who fall slightly below the entrance requirements. CSAR provides intervention in the form of math and basic computer science skills.  “We take students who show potential and provide intervention to prepare them to enter the major. If they do well, we allow them to enter the major as an internal transfer,” Robinson said.


Today, there are 155 computer science majors at Rowan. Robinson said the program’s goal is to cultivate 15 minorities and women a year through FATPIPE. Once the program is solidly in place at the University, he said, the FATPIPE coordinators will explore targeting select high schools to help them better prepare students to enter STEM majors.