In response to a growing interest in computer science, Scripps College has plans to update its programming — a new CS minor will be up and running in the fall.
Scripps mathematics professor Christopher Towse helped lead the program proposal and will be an adviser for prospective minors. He said the new minor will require six courses: an introductory programming class, Data Structures and Algorithms, Linear Algebra, Discrete Math and two electives chosen in consultation with an adviser.
The new track follows years of cross-campus meetings and hiring efforts aimed at meeting the increasing demand for computer science classes and majors. Three years ago, Scripps hired Douglas Goodwin as its first Fletcher Jones Scholar in Computation. A year later, Scripps declared a data science minor.
This spring, four Scripps first years were denied off-campus computer science majors through Harvey Mudd College’s lottery program. He hopes the new minor, along with adding more computer science classes, will help alleviate this pressure and enrich Scripps’ offerings.
Previously, Scripps students were only able to major — not minor — in the subject through Harvey Mudd College and Pomona College, though Towse said the likelihood of getting into the Pomona major has been slim to none.
Originally, Ella Lehavi SC ’24 wanted to double major in art and media studies with a minor in computer science. But since the minor was off-limits, they are double majoring in computer science and art.
While they said it’s too late for them to switch now, Lehavi is glad others will have the option.
“Scripps students, I feel, more than other 5C students, need to branch out to other colleges to really get access to a diverse set of programs, while many of our on-campus programs don’t prioritize Scripps students,” they said via email.
Instead of hiring dedicated computer science faculty, Scripps is encouraging existing and prospective faculty to integrate computer science into their courses, so they can qualify as upper-division electives for the minor. For example, Towse has woven the theme of cryptography throughout his number theory class and added optional programming exercises.
“It makes the course really different and interesting,” he said.
This interdisciplinary approach plays to Scripps’ strengths and the versatility of the subject, Towse said.
“The joke became, you just put computational in front of anything, and [then] that’s probably a subfield of computer science,” he said. “Linguistics? Well, computational linguistics. … Anthropology? Computational anthropology.”
However, Lehavi worries that this will strain current faculty.
“I also think it’ll be limiting for people who want to acquire actual CS skills, work internships, build resumes, etc. because their experiences will be largely theory-based,” they said. “I think the best thing would be to get spaces for Scripps CS minors in Mudd and Pomona CS classes, but we all know that if that space existed, then you wouldn’t have to go through two lotteries and sell all your organs to major in CS.”
Scripps mathematics professor Christina Edholm said the minor will allow more Scripps students to dip their toes into computer science without having to commit to the major.
“The minor opens up many possible pathways for Scripps students to incorporate studies in CS into their time at Scripps,” Edholm said via email. “As with many of our minors, students can form many major/minor couplings which enhance their primary area of focus.”
Lehavi said this increased access will be helpful given the growth of technology across disciplines.
“However, with that in mind, this might lead to more competition for the program between students who just want exposure to CS and students who would’ve majored in CS for seats,” they said via email.
The proposal writers — Goodwin, Towse and Edholm — will head the new program when it launches this fall.