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College to offer new Computer Science major

From The Cavalier Daily
February 27, 2006

By Whitney Gruenloh

B.A. in Comp Sci to be offered to College students, class to have non-engineering focus

Beginning this spring, the College of Arts & Sciences will offer a program in computer science. The Bachelor of Arts program in the Collegeapproved at the faculty meeting on Thursday will be separate from the Bachelor of Science currently offered in the Engineering school.

A Bachelor of Arts in computer science, the first major to the combine academic programming of the two schools, was approved in the College of Arts & Sciences faculty meeting last Thursday.

According to David Evans, chair of the computer science BA committee, College students will be able to declare a major in the interdisciplinary computer science program in the upcoming spring semester.

"For many years students in the College have wanted to take computer science but not with the engineering focus -- they wanted to do additional majors like economics or psychology or something in the life sciences and the engineering degree didn't allow them to do both," said Thomas Horton, member of the computer science B.A. committee.

College students currently make up about 10 to 20 percent of computer science course enrollement until now they have not been able to receive a degree in the program, Evans said.

"There's been a program in place for the last four years that is a non-degree program," Evans said.

To complete the curriculum, College students must have taken the equivalent of 10 computer science courses, according to Evans.

For the new major, students will need to complete 30 credits in computer science. However, unlike computer science in the Engineering School, an additional four "integration" electives will be required.

"These will be computer related courses taught by departments in the College, not by computer science," Horton said. "So an example of that kind of course would be a digital music course or a certain mathematics course."

In addition, computer science majors in the College will have to complete a different introductory course, CSF 150, from those in the Engineering School.

"CSF 150 is designed for students without a previous background in computer science and uses examples from the arts and sciences to motivate students," Evans said.

While there are no prerequisites for entering the major, students will be expected to complete their College competency requirements.

This, however, has caused some concerns among Engineering Computer Science majors.

"There is a little bit of unfairness because chemistry and physics are so hard," second-year Engineering student Vanessa Trahan said. "It changes the value of a computer science degree from U.Va. if a Bachelor of Arts degree is offered."

In addition, some feel that the curriculum of computer science does not belong in the College.

"I feel like computer science is inherently an engineering type of field and it seems like you are trying to produce technology," third-year Engineering student Nathan Hurst said. "When you do science you get science out, when you do engineering you get technology out. When you do computer science it's an engineering field."

Evans, however, said the College computer science program is meant to be just as rigorous as the Engineering curriculum.

"It's certainly intended to be the same amount of work and effort," Evans said. In addition, College students will be taking the same computer science classes as Engineering students, he said.

"We definitely think it's absolutely great," Computer Science Prof. James Cohoon said. "It's a great way to get students in the College involved in computer science. It's good for us and good for them. The College and Engineering School thought it'd be best for the University."


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