CMC Proposes New Computer Science Major

On Mar. 27, Arthur Lee, a Claremont McKenna College computer science professor, held a discussion about the potential addition of a Computer Science (CS) major to the current list of 33 majors at CMC. 

There is currently a CS sequence at CMC, wherein students must take Introduction to CS, Discrete Structure, Data Structures and Advanced Programming, and three further classes of their choice. However, the recent increase in interest in CS has been too high to ignore. The new major could be introduced as soon as next fall, but realistically, it will probably debut in fall 2017, according to an article published by the CMC Forum.

According to Dean of Faculty Peter Ulvin, “CMC student enrollment in CS courses has increased by a factor of about 10 in less than a decade” because of CS’s growing relevance to all fields of study. There are currently 47 CMC students majoring in CS off-campus: 26 students majoring at Harvey Mudd and 21 at Pomona.

CMC’s CS major would require 11 classes, which is fewer than both Harvey Mudd’s 15-course program and Pomona 14-course program. This proposed number is closer to the average number of classes required to major in CS at other liberal arts institutions across the country. It would also give CMC “more opportunities for students to combine CS with other disciplines allowing dual majors,” one of the main reasons for creating the program, according to an email Lee wrote to TSL.

The 11 classes would consist of six required courses, five electives, and a thesis. The proposed six required classes are Introduction to CS, Discrete Structure, Introduction to Data Structure and Algorithms, Computer Organization and Systems, Models of Computation and Algorithms, and Programming Paradigms and Software Design.

“Students are interested in either a more ‘horizontal’ approach, using computing skills as part of their studies in economics, the natural sciences, psychology, and so on; or a ‘vertical’ approach, getting an actual major in CS,” Ulvin wrote in an email to TSL. “The conversations we are currently having at CMC pertain to both these approaches, and we seek to make them mutually supportive and infused with the ‘spirit’ of a CMC education.”  

While no actual decisions have been made yet, Ulvin wrote that “enthusiasm for both these approaches is high” among students and faculty. Currently, however, CMC is still in the early phases of planning the logistics of the major.

“This would be a major decision for the college and it will not be done without serious thought and discussion,” Ulvin wrote.

Lee added, “Almost all of the students we have a chance to talk to about the new major seem to like the idea and we expect it to be good major for CMC students.” 

The major would include classes new to the 5Cs, sparked by the new staff that the major would bring. A new CS Data Analysis sequence has also been proposed, which would be particularly useful for Economics and Finance majors. However, the new sequence would not be available in the near future, according to the CMC Forum.

Currently, the plans for the major would allow students to study abroad, counting CS courses taken abroad towards the major. The CMC Forum also says accommodations are being planned for those who will have already started the major at another school before switching to the major at CMC.

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