Game Development Program Women Graduates: Perceptions of Influential Factors and Faculty Behaviors that Influenced Success
Watkins, William Adam
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The lucrative industry of video games with its broad influence in the U.S. is an attractive destination for many college students enrolled in the 185 game production departments at 4-year institutions of higher education in the U.S. In 2021, at one game design department at a university in the Southwestern U.S., enrollment of women in the game development program at the study institution continued to rise and was nearing parity in numbers with their counterparts who are men. However, attrition was not equal. Women students in this program dropped out at roughly twice the rate of men. Faculty play a key role in the retention and persistence to graduation for women students. Therefore, at this game development program, identifying and replicating faculty behaviors that increase retention of women students may increase retention and graduation rates. Using a collective-case study design, this research sought to identify the faculty behaviors that positively influenced women who graduated. Ten women graduates of the study institution were interviewed and identified factors and faculty behaviors that assisted them in their persistence to graduation. Themes that included pre-college gaming, computer literacy, and regular, meaningful contact with faculty emerged as positive influences on retention. Participant suggestions for policies and faculty behaviors that would increase retention and persistence included scaffolding the strenuousness of faculty critiques, an increase in women faculty, and establishment of regular sexual harassment training for students and faculty. Implications for higher education include the necessity of identifying and rectifying lack of computer literacy skills, establishing more meaningful office hour interactions, diversifying faculty gender makeup, and requiring sexual-harassment training. Future research is recommended including a quantitative study to measure computer literacy rates and this literacy impact on retention, a qualitative study to analyze the types of office hours faculty conduct and how they impact students, and a quantitative study that measured the impact of increased numbers of women faculty on women student retention.