Students who participate in Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) often have an advantage over students who do not. In particular, REU students report an increase in their skills and overall confidence [3,10], persist in their majors [5], and are more likely to attend graduate school [10]. Women and minority students also report unique benefits of participating in REUs, including opportunities to work with role models [1,11] and increased confidence in their skills [3]. REUs provide exceptional opportunities for students to develop as research professionals. From the Collaborative REU (CREU) and Distributed REU (DREU) programs, students can expect to get much more.

An Alliance With Broader Impacts

CREU and DREU are programs designed to immerse undergraduate students in computing research experiences with the expectation that they will pursue graduate studies in the computing discipline. The CREU and DREU programs are part of a larger collection of programs, administered by the Computing Research Association's Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W) and the Coalition to Diversify Computing (CDC). These organizations form the CRA-W/CDC Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) Alliance with the goal of sustaining diversity in the computing research pipeline, from undergraduates to senior-level professionals. Since undergraduate students need supports, or interventions, that are different from graduate students and career professionals, the Alliance applies a framework that provides unique supports for these groups, with a special focus on serving women and minorities. The Alliance programs aim to increase awareness of the rewards of a research career and the value of a PhD as well as connect participants to the research community and to each other to further their success. Additionally, the Alliance seeks to increase self-efficacy in a number of ways, including facilitating personal experience of success in research and the accompanying increase in confidence, skills, and credentials and vicarious experience of success through interaction with role models and mentors who are successful researchers who also happen to be minorities.

• Distributed Research Experiences for Undergraduates (DREU)

Initiated in 1994, the Distributed Research Experiences for Undergraduates (DREU) program matched undergraduate women with faculty women mentors for a summer of research at the mentor's institution. Starting in 2007, the CRA-W/CDC BPC Alliance broadened the outreach of DREU to include minority students (men and women), as participation by these groups was just about 12%. After formation of the Alliance, participation of minority students grew to 34%. The Alliance also cooperates with AccessComputing to include students with disabilities and the Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computer Science (iAAMCS) to increase the participation of African American students. These partnerships help to provide rich and inclusive research experiences for participants.

DREU students participate in a 10-week research project, observe graduate student life, and benefit from a close mentoring relationship with their advisors at a host research university. The learning experience begins during the application process that is modeled upon the graduate school application, requiring letters and a research statement. Over the summer, the students gain research experience and build confidence. They engage in key aspects of the research process such as contributing to the writing of research papers for submission and presenting results in poster sessions at conferences. These research experiences make DREU students more competitive when applying for graduate admissions and fellowships. DREU students receive support for transportation to the mentor's institution, a weekly stipend, and funding to attend a research conference with their mentor to present the results of their work. DREU participants follow a carefully designed program that includes working with a faculty mentor to develop research objectives and a plan for achieving those goals and providing regular progress reports and other project artifacts (such as research papers and project website). Applications for DREU participants and faculty mentors are due annually on February 15.

More information about DREU can be found online, see [9].

• Collaborative Research Experiences for Undergraduates (CREU)

The Collaborative Research Experiences for Undergraduates (CREU) program provides undergraduates with research experiences at their home institutions in an effort to increase their likelihood of continuing on to graduate school. The students work at their home institution during the academic year on research projects, typically in teams of two or three students, under the guidance of a faculty member. (There is an optional extension of an academic-year project into the summer, but students are encouraged to participate in DREU for summer experiences.) Students are selected on a competitive basis from grant-like proposals that they write with their mentor. During their research experience, students gain valuable insights into the research process, work in teams to advance their skills and confidence in grappling with open-ended problems, and form close working relationships with faculty mentors. Like DREU, research experience makes CREU students more competitive in applying for graduate school and fellowships. As of 2016, CREU began working with iAAMCS to increase the participation of African American students.

CREU teams have presented or plan to present their work at their home institutions and technical conferences, including IEEE VIS 2015, as well as the Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, both of which serve as official meeting venues for the CREU (and DREU) cohorts. The annual deadline to submit proposals is May 18.

For more information about CREU or to apply online, see [8].

Results Of CREU & DREU Participation

In creating an alliance that joins the CDC and CRA-W, outreach efforts are quickly augmented to shift the computing landscape toward greater inclusion. To evaluate these outreach efforts, the Center for Evaluating the Research Pipeline (CERP) collects data from CREU and DREU student participants and from students participating in other REUs across collaborating computing departments throughout the US (i.e., "Data Buddies") [2]. These data enable meaningful comparisons of CREU and DREU participants with otherwise similar students who participated in other REU experiences or students who did not participate in any REU experiences. As a result of this evaluation research, it was found that CREU and DREU participants are more likely to have applied to graduate school, as shown in Figure 1 [11].

Additionally, twice as many CREU and DREU participants attend graduate school, in computing, as compared to those who participate in other REUs, as shown in Figure 2 [13].

While we do not yet have evidence to establish the reason for the greater impact of the CREU and DREU programs, we hypothesize that the structured experience of the programs, with the prescribed milestones throughout, as well as the special dedication of the CREU and DREU mentors both have some bearing on the successful outcomes of these programs.

About CDC [6]

The Coalition to Diversify Computing (CDC) was formed in 1996 as a joint organization of the ACM, CRA, and IEEE Computer Society. It was created to "ensure that individuals from groups not traditionally represented in the computing research community can effectively meet the computing demands of an evolving society." [4] Membership is comprised of professionals from academia, industry, and federal labs, and its programs are designed to support inclusion and exposure to computing research, from undergraduate and graduate study through post-graduate career development and support. The CDC organizes the ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference (since 2001), co-sponsors the Academic Careers Workshop (ACW) in conjunction with CMD-IT, AccessComputing, and CAHSI (since 2005), and provides travel grants for students to present at technical conferences. The current and past CDC Co-Directors for CREU include Jamika Burge (Smarter Balanced at UCLA), Elva Jones (Winston-Salem State University), Verónica Vergara Larrea (ORNL) and Manuel Pérez Quiñones (UNCC). The DREU CDC Co-Directors are Nancy Amato (Texas A&M) and Monica Anderson (University of Alabama).

About CRA-W [7]

The Computing Research Association's Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W) was founded in 1991 with a mission to increase the success and participation of women in computing research and education at all levels. CRA-W programs, people, and materials provide mentoring and support for women at every level of the research pipeline, from undergraduate and graduate students, to faculty, industry, and government researchers. Hallmark programs include the Graduate Student Cohort Workshop (since 2004) and Early Career Mentoring Workshops. In 2016, the CRA-W celebrates its 25th anniversary. The current CRA-W CREU Co-Directors are Sheila Castañeda (Clarke University), Andrea Danyluk (Williams College), Soha Hassoun (Tufts University), and Melanie Wu (Pomona College). The DREU CRA-W Co-Directors are Maria Gini (University of Minnesota), Julia Hirschberg (Columbia University), and Ming Ling (University of North Carolina).


The CRA-W/CDC Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) Alliance is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF#1246649).


1. Alexander, B. et al. "The 'Spend a Summer with a Scientist' (SaS) program at Rice University: A study of program outcomes and essential elements 1991-1997." Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly. 20, 3 (2000), 127–133.

2. Bizot, E., et al. The Data Buddies Project: CRA-W/CDC Project on Measuring Outcomes for Students in Computing: Report on Spring 2011 Surveys. Technical report, Computing Research Association, Washington, DC, 2012.

3. Campbell A. and Skoog G. "Preparing undergraduate women for science careers." Journal of College Science Teaching, 33, 5 (2004), 24–26.

4. Coalition to Diversify Computing; Accessed 2016 June 3.

5. Chaplin S., Manske J., and Cruise J. "Introducing freshmen to investigative research: A course for biology majors at Minnesota's University of St. Thomas." Journal of College Science Teaching, 27, 5 (1998), 347–350.

6. CDC; Accessed 25 August 2016.

7. CRA; Accessed 25 August 2016.

8. CREU; Accessed 25 August 2016.

9. DREU; Accessed 25 August 2016.

10. Russell S. H., Hancock M. P., and McCullough J. "Benefits of undergraduate research experiences." Science, 316 (2007), 548–549.

11. Stout, J. "Racial/ethnic Minority Students Who are CDC/CRA-W REU Participants are Particularly Likely to Apply to a Graduate Program in Computing." Computing Research News, 28, 1 (2016), 17.

12. Summers M. and Hrabowski F. "Preparing minority scientists and engineers." Science, 11, 5769 (2006):1870–1871.

13. Tamer, B. "Twice as Many CREU/DREU Students Attend Graduate School, Compared to Other REU Students." Computing Research News, 28, 2 (2016), 9.


Jamika D. Burge
Howard University
Department of Computer Science
2300 Sixth Street, NW USA
Washington, DC 20059
[email protected]

Nancy M. Amato
Texas A&M University
Department of Computer Science and Engineering
College Station, TX 77843 USA
[email protected]


F1Figure 1. Percent of CREU & DREU students likely to apply to graduate school

F2Figure 2. Percent of participating CREU/DREU, REU, and non-REU students enrolled in a computing graduate program

©2016 ACM  2153-2184/16/12  $15.00

Permission to make digital or hard copies of part or all of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and full citation on the first page. Copyright for components of this work owned by others than ACM must be honored. Abstracting with credit is permitted. To copy otherwise, to republish, to post on servers, or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or fee.

The Digital Library is published by the Association for Computing Machinery. Copyright © 2016 ACM, Inc.

Contents available in PDF
View Full Citation and Bibliometrics in the ACM DL.


There are no comments at this time.


To comment you must create or log in with your ACM account.