Mary Lou Dorf selected for Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize

Dr. Dorf has transformed EECS 183 into an interactive and inclusive experience.

Dr. Mary Lou Dorf has been selected as a recipient of the 2017 Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize, which recognizes faculty who have made use of innovation to improve student learning. The award is given by the Office of the Provost, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, and the University Library.

Dr. Dorf has been recognized with this award for her work in reimagining EECS 183, Elementary Programming Concepts, the introductory computer science course for students in all colleges outside of the College of Engineering.

One of the key concerns nationally in CS education is fostering a culture of inclusion, where all students feel a sense of belonging. Fledgling students often struggle with confidence in their ability to succeed in the discipline, and this deficit in confidence has been shown to disproportionately impact female students and underrepresented minorities, as they are less likely to have experience in CS before attending University.

Dr. Dorf has transformed EECS 183 into an interactive and inclusive experience that culminates in a substantial final programming project and has created an event to showcase the finished projects.

This final project is a major programming assignment of the scale and scope not seen in other introductory programming courses. Instead of a final exam, students complete this major achievement in teams of four students. Team-based projects provide multiple benefits to students. It allows the scope of the project to be significant, while still being tractable, and provides an early experience in teamwork and leadership for students.

Since the introduction of the final project and showcase event, there has been significant across-the-board growth in the number of students pursuing computer science as a major though the College of LSA, including an increased percentage of female students. There are also many anecdotes of students who have come forward to express how completing the final project increased their self-confidence, which has led to them deciding to pursue computer science and other STEM fields of study.

Dr. Dorf will be honored with the Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize at the Enriching Scholarship Conference on May 1, 2017.

Dr. Dorf received her Ph.D. in systems engineering from the University of Toledo in 1990. She joined the faculty at the University of Michigan as a Lecturer in 2002. She is a recipient of the College of Engineering Thomas M. Sawyer, Jr. Teaching Award and an EECS Outstanding Achievement Award. She has a particular interest in engineering education and in opening doors for women interested in the field of computer science and is currently working on a number of projects aimed at increasing the number of undergraduate women who declare computer science as a major.