Undergraduate enrollment in the computer science (CS) department at Stanford has quintupled in the past 10 years. As former CS department chair Alex Aiken once put it in a newsletter, expansion “has varied only between ‘rapid growth’ and ‘very rapid growth.’” This trend is paralleled nationwide. Between 2009 and 2015, the Computing Research Association found that CS degrees awarded at Ph.D.-granting universities increased by almost 300 percent.
Today, the CS department is home to just four percent of total University faculty and staff but claims 20 percent of all undergraduate majors. An investigation conducted last year by a visiting committee of non-University computer science professors and industry professionals describes the growth of Stanford’s CS department as “unsustainable”
Reuters reported that CS had become the top major for women at Stanford, and currently, almost 35 percent of declared CS majors at the University are female. In comparison, only 18 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer science go to women nationwide.
At the core of Roberts’ philosophy is a commitment to increasing enrollment numbers through making computer science accessible. Such an approach favors prioritizing the number of women and underrepresented minorities enrolled rather than the percentage.