15:42 PM

Computer Science Professor Wins CSU Faculty Innovation Award

Youwen Ouyang, a Cal State San Marcos professor of computer science, is among 19 faculty members being recognized by the California State University system with Faculty Innovation and Leadership Awards for their commitment to student success. 

The awards recognize faculty leaders who have implemented innovative practices in teaching, course design or support programs that significantly improve student success. 

These outstanding faculty consistently engage students with innovative practices and foster stimulating and equitable learning environments that support these students on their path to graduation,” CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White said. “Their commitment to deepen and enrich learning by putting students at the center of all they do is fundamental to the mission of the CSU, and is helping to transform higher education nationwide.” 

A selection committee composed of faculty, student representatives from the California State Student Association and staff members from the CSU Chancellor’s Office reviewed more than 200 nominations to identify the awardees. 

Awardees receive $5,000, as well as $10,000 allocated to their academic department in support of ongoing innovation and leadership to advance student success at the CSU. Funding for the awards is provided by generous grant support from the College Futures Foundation, which sees faculty innovation and leadership as vital to improving outcomes for California’s diverse students. 

Ouyang is recognized for creating innovative computer science education pipelines for women, minorities and historically underserved and first-generation students. Her excellence in promoting student success in STEM has earned her several state and national grants. 

Most recently, the California Education Learning Lab granted $1 million to Ouyang and her partners to redesign introductory computer science courses to improve the academic performance of all students, especially those from underrepresented communities. 

With funding from Microsoft, Ouyang founded Women’s Hackathon, a 12-hour event providing students from local high schools and colleges the opportunity to work in teams and propose technology solutions for nonprofit organizations. Since 2014, the event has supported more than 400 female students, many of whom decided to major in computer science after the experience. 

Ouyang also created CodeQueens, an after-school program for female high school students to work on coding challenges pertaining to food insecurity and the environment. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the program engages CSUSM students to mentor the high school students and present their work to industry professionals.  

The NSF also granted $1 million to Ouyang and CSUSM colleague Marisol Clark-Ibáñez, a sociology professor, to provide scholarships for historically underserved, high-performing computer science students. To further the benefits of the scholarships, Ouyang and Clark-Ibanez launched a semester-long hackathon to prepare students for internships by the end of the scholarship period.  

"Dr. Ouyang certainly exemplifies the qualities of faculty who are honored by the CSU Faculty Innovation and Leadership Awards for their deep commitment to student success," said Katherine Kantardjieff, dean of CSUSM's College of Science and Mathematics. "Since joining the faculty at CSUSM in 1997, she has established and sustained a program of scholarly activity, drawing upon her expertise, aimed at improving STEM education. With significant external funding, she has consistently engaged students with innovative curriculum to develop computational thinking.

"She has created stimulating and equitable learning environments that are helping our students, many who are first-generation college students and Hispanic, to build social capital, confidence and a strong portfolio of experiences that will enable them to be agile and resilient members of the regional tech workforce."

Faculty innovation is crucial to reaching the ambitious student success goals outlined in the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025. This system-wide effort advances specific goals to eliminate equity gaps and significantly improve degree completion. 

Award recipients will be formally honored in mid-October at the fourth annual Graduation Initiative 2025 Symposium, hosted this year in Sacramento. 

About California State University San Marcos

Building on an innovative 29-year history, California State University San Marcos is a forward-focused institution, dedicated to preparing future leaders, building great communities and solving critical issues. Located on a 304-acre hillside overlooking the City of San Marcos, it is the only public four-year comprehensive university serving North San Diego, Southwest Riverside and South Orange counties.

The University enrolls more than 16,000 students. With approximately 2,000 employees, the institution is a Great College to Work For® (The Chronicle of Higher Education). As a recipient of the annual HEED Award since 2014 — a national honor recognizing U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion — CSUSM is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment.