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Thinking broadly about computer science applications

The San Francisco Bay Guardian Online reported this week on the interdisciplinary computer science graduate program at Mills College.

From the ICS program web page:

Mills offers unique graduate programs for people with bachelor's degrees in other fields who wish to transition into computer science or interdisciplinary work. We believe that knowledge of another discipline and computer science is a powerful combination, allowing our graduates to enrich themselves and the world.

Mills College is a women's college, but its graduate programs are co-ed, and the SFBG article discusses some of the gender dynamics in the ICS program. The ICS program is an excellent example of a way to encourage groups of people who are traditionally underrepresented in technical fields, including (but not limited to) women. But lest anyone get the idea that it's a "soft" program trying to give an easy nod to "political correctness" or tokenism, one of the primary thrusts of this program is to bring a broader understanding of the world in which technical applications can be applied:

The interdisciplinary part of the Mills College ICS program's name means students combine computer science with another area of study to produce their master's theses. "It gives you a really broad brush," says Wetherby, the former casino worker. When a student comes to Spertus with a thesis idea, she always asks how it uses what the student has learned about computer science. But she also asks why the thesis is something that she, a narrowly trained computer scientist, couldn't do. She finds the interdisciplinary approach helps students make more of a contribution and also realize they can do things that Spertus, who has a PhD from MIT, can't.

It's good for the individuals; it's good for the field. Let's see more programs like this! Know of one? Let us know!


My knee-jerk reaction is to mention the digital humanities programs that have been springing up lately. There's one in Alberta, another in Virginia, and King's College London has both a MA and a PhD in the field.

I'm not sure that hard-core computer scientists wouldn't balk at this: "digital humanities" does not necessarily imply "uses computer science as such." A lot of digital humanities stuff involves, for example, coding in XML. But I've discovered that computer science is often incredibly useful to digital humanities projects, whether it's performed by the humanist researcher or by a collaborator.

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