In an effort to fit a growing need for a competent and creative understanding of technology, the University of Dallas has announced Computer Science as its newest major.
The chair of the math department, Dr. David Andrews, who helped design the program, said that there was a “built-in demand for the major for awhile … and recently everything within the university came together.”
The 50 credit-hour tract includes courses in programming, mathematics, physics and a philosophy course examining technology.
One class Dr. Andrews is especially interested in teaching is a computer organization and hardware course: “The class gets all the way down to the silicon, down to the zeroes and ones.”
While many classes are focused on programming, this one deconstructs the physical machine. It examines the hardware elements that make first person shooter games or Excel documents appear on the screen.
Dr. Andrews stressed the immediate applicability of the skills offered in the major. “You are going to be using the information you learn in these classes,” Andrews said.
The major aims to produce students who will be competent in working with computers as well as in communicating with people to design the best programs, networks and user experiences possible.
The university bulletin states that “One of the unique aspects of the UD computer science program is its strong relationship with the outstanding core curriculum.” Dr. Andrews said that it goes a step further.
“It builds on the Core; with the Core, students become better computer scientists,” Andrews said. “Our approach to computer science emphasizes the creative rational part of the human mind. What started as a holistic discipline is now a personal engagement in a particular subject area.”
In a setting where the liberal arts and hard sciences are so closely situated, there is often a perceived dichotomy between the two, with proponents of one discipline calling the merits of the other into question. Last year’s mainstage theater production, Arcadia, examined this fierce debate between the arts and sciences. Will a computer science major, building on the Core, widen or close the gap between the two?
“That’s a dangerous question to answer,” laughed Dr. Andrews. “Computer science can be the nexus of the creative arts and the scientific method.”
Examples of this integration are found throughout the design of the course. An art professor was included in the interview panel hiring professors to teach the computer science classes, illustrating the major’s proximity to graphic arts, design and creativity.
For nearly 30 years, computer science classes have been offered at the University of Dallas as electives, and a six-course concentration has been an available course of study. In 1999, the university offered computer science as a major, but due to the collapse of the ‘tech bubble,’ there was a lack of interest, and the program was forced to close. More recently however, as careers in information technology have seen tremendous growth, many prospective students have mentioned their interest in the major. With such promising interest in the program, Andrews does not anticipate problems with enrollment.
Preparation for the program included hiring Dr. Robert Hochberg to help run the program and teach classes. The program already has a solid beginning and will be sure to grow as it gains traction. The need for computer literacy is all but universal, and there is an interest among undergraduates to meet the demand. Though Andrews anticipates a slow start, there are already 18 people in one of the introductory courses. As technology and the ability to understand it play an increasingly large role in our lives, this number will likely grow as more students seek to complement their liberal arts education with this increasingly relevant skill set.