In an era of restrictions on the number of freshman and transfer students accepted into computer science and engineering majors, the CSE department has embarked on what it calls a "targeted effort to build and disseminate resources for students interested in studying the computational sciences at UC San Diego." The project recently received a $75,000 grant following a highly competitive round of proposals submitted to the university's Academic Advising Innovation Grant Initiative.
Principal investigators Mia Minnes (pictured at right), who is a CSE Assistant Teaching Professor, and CSE Student Affairs Director Lynne Keith-McMullin were notified of the selection committee's decision in late June. According to Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs Juan C. Gonzalez, the committee "awarded those proposals that most clearly demonstrated sustainability and impact on student retention and success."
With the new grant, Minnes and Keith-McMullin will develop a brochure and online, interactive resource available to prospective and current students interested in computational sciences with information they should take into consideration before picking a major. They will also engage an interdepartmental group of UC San Diego faculty, advisers, current students and alumni to reach out to local community colleges and high schools to host informational events, while also staging community briefing sessions, e.g., on Triton Day and Transfer Admit Day.
"The end goal of this initiative is to encourage students to consider their career goals and find the best majors to attain them," said Prof. Minnes. "We will engage advisers across campus to build the resources they need to advise their students who are interested in computational sciences. The colleges at UC San Diego are major advising partners and this project will strengthen the connection between them and departments.”
According to Minnes, one of the biggest challenges is guiding incoming students to shift from a major-based to this goal-based approach. "Many of them are singularly focused on becoming a CSE major and have not really thought through their academic and career goals," she said. "They often overlook majors that draw heavily on computational or algorithmic themes."
The most obvious alternate majors might include Biology (for computational biology or bioinformatics), and Cognitive Science, which has a specialization in computation. Roughly a dozen other alternatives range from Mathematics and Physics to Biology, Music and Visual Arts. They include the recently launched major in Speculative Design, and the pending Data Sciences majors proposed by CSE and Mathematics.