IGT, URI launch computer science scholarship program for women

KINGSTON, R.I. – Nov. 10, 2022 – Through the generous support of IGT, the University of Rhode Island’s Department of Computer Science and Statistics is launching a four-year scholarship program aimed at increasing the number of women who major in computer science.

The IGT Scholarships for Women in Computer Science program – a $200,000 investment by IGT over the next four years – will open with a cohort of 10 women who are currently first-year students at URI. The scholarships provide a total of about $20,000 per student over their four years, and are open to any first-year student who identifies as a woman. The deadline to apply is Dec. 15. Recipients will be announced in January.

“IGT has partnered with URI for decades to provide top-quality internships, and we are excited to expand our support for URI students in this new capacity as we aim to increase the number of women graduating with computer science degrees,” said Rachel Barber, IGT senior vice president and chief technology officer of Global Gaming. “As a URI alum, I hope that this IGT Scholars Program inspires more women to take an interest in computer science-focused careers and empower them to confidently enter a career in technology.”

“We’re deeply appreciative that IGT has stepped up to make this investment in our students,” said Jen Riley, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, home to the computer science department. “In doing so, they’re helping to assure that they and other companies have a diverse pipeline of talent headed to the workforce, which benefits everyone. At the same time, they’re strengthening our computer science program by helping us recruit and retain excellent students.”

Nationally, women have earned about 57% of all bachelor’s degrees and about half of all science and engineering degrees since the late 1990s, but they only make up about 18% of those who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project.

Lisa DiPippo, chair of computer science at URI, sees the same disparity at URI, where the number of women undergraduates in computer science is less than 20%. Over the last decade, the number of women to graduate from the program has been between 11% and 17%. Looking to find answers, the department researched programs at other universities and its own, she said.

“One of the things our research found was that the women who left computer science weren’t doing any worse than the men who stayed in computer science,” DiPippo said. “The women weren’t leaving because of their grades. They were leaving because they felt they didn’t belong. They felt they wanted to find a major where there were more people like them.”

Funding a cohort of 10 women – who will take classes and work together – can reinforce their feeling of belonging, she said. That peer network nurtured by the scholarships can extend that feeling of community to other women in the program. But also, DiPippo said, computer science faculty and staff will host regular meetings and workshops with the scholarship recipients on multiple topics – including academics, professional coaching and job search skills.

“This scholarship program could be game-changing,” she said. “IGT has very generously provided money for this cohort of students over the next four years. They have set the tone. It’s now our hope that we can find more companies that decide they want to do this. But it’s also game-changing for the women who are part of this cohort, giving them a sense of belonging that the group will provide and the confidence to succeed.”

The IGT Scholars Program will provide recipients a $2,500 tuition scholarship in their second semester of their first year, and $5,000 awards in their three subsequent years. Also, in their sophomore year, scholarship recipients will be able to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration, the world’s largest gathering of women in technology.

But a large part of the scholarship program, said DiPippo, will be the recipients’ and the University’s connection to IGT. Recipients will be able to meet with industry mentors from the company, and the program further opens opportunities for internships and a senior capstone project where students can work on industry problems with an IGT engineer.

“IGT is an international company,” she said. “It’s a great introduction to all kinds of different avenues where students could go with their computer science degree.”

The scholarship program is open to any first-year URI student who identifies as a woman and who is a computer science major or intends to major in the program. IGT Scholars are expected to maintain a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher.

A webinar will be held Nov. 16 at 5 p.m. for students thinking of applying to learn more about the IGT scholarship program. (Find a link to the webinar on the scholarship webpage.)

About IGT

IGT (NYSE:IGT) is a global leader in gaming. It delivers entertaining and responsible gaming experiences for players across all channels and regulated segments, from lotteries and gaming machines to sports betting and digital. Leveraging a wealth of compelling content, substantial investment in innovation, player insights, operational expertise, and leading-edge technology, IGT’s solutions deliver unrivaled gaming experiences that engage players and drive growth. IGT has a well-established local presence and relationships with governments and regulators in more than 100 countries around the world, and create value by adhering to the highest standards of service, integrity, and responsibility. IGT has approximately 10,500 employees. For more information, please visit www.igt.com.