Student Story

Rachel Kiersten Beaulieu '22 Receives Funding from Passionate Leaders Project

Rachel Kiersten Beaulieu '22, a junior majoring in data science & analytics and biostatistics, was awarded funding from the Passionate Leaders Project (PLP) for her research project with Visiting Scholar Sherry Seibel '18. Beaulieu’s research compares the graduation rates of women in computer science programs and coding bootcamps. While 15% of graduates with bachelor’s degrees in computer science are women, 35% of graduates from coding bootcamps are women.

“My research looks at reasons for the large discrepancy,” says Beaulieu. “There is a much closer ratio between male and female graduates for coding bootcamps, but it doesn’t come close for computer science degrees.”

In her research, Beaulieu has focused on trends and consistent reporting across various sources. “We recently began conducting interviews to try and pinpoint if thinking differs across genders.” Beaulieu plans to conduct more interviews over the summer and fall semester, and will then use content analysis to analyze the data.

“The Passionate Leaders Project funding makes it possible for me to work on the project in place of an internship, without worrying about missing out on income,” Beaulieu says.

The grant also provides incentives for the interview participants. After the data is analyzed, Beaulieu will work with Sherry Seibel ‘18 and Professor Nanette Veilleux to point out specific mindsets that may motivate or deter someone from getting a bachelor’s degree in computer science. She’s hoping to present their findings at Simmons' Undergraduate Symposium in spring 2021.

Seibel began this work as a Hazel Dick Leonard Scholar while an undergraduate at Simmons, an opportunity she found transformative. “I’ve been so lucky to have the support of Professor Veilleux,” says Seibel. “Without her and access to research programs at Simmons, my life would be so different right now. I wouldn’t have been able to pursue this topic, which I care deeply about.”

Seibel is thrilled that Beaulieu will join the team. “She’s been a valuable addition and has already contributed a lot to this project.”

The PLP supports undergraduate students seeking to enrich their academic and professional interests by funding learning opportunities beyond the boundaries of the traditional classroom. Students may request up to $4,000 through the PLP to fund a variety of activities, including, but not limited to, global experiences, research, internships, service projects, and creative endeavors.

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