Stanford to offer new undergraduate majors integrating humanities and computer science

In a new experiment aimed at integrating the humanities and computer science while providing students with unique educational experiences, Stanford will offer undergraduates the opportunity to pursue a new “joint major” in computer science and either English or music starting in fall 2014. The Faculty Senate approved the new joint majors on Thursday, March 6.

The new degrees are distinct from “dual degrees” or “double majors.” Rather than completing all of the requirements for two separate majors, students who choose a joint major will pursue a curriculum integrating coursework from both disciplines.

The Faculty Senate laid the groundwork Feb. 20 when it approved a six-year pilot structure for a new Joint Majors Program, allowing Stanford departments to team up to offer joint majors. In its action Thursday, the senate approved the first two such majors on a pilot basis – one in computer science and English, the other in computer science and music.

Additional joint major proposals are expected to come forward in the near future.

“The worlds of the humanities and computer science are coming closer together,” said Nicholas Jenkins, associate professor of English and director of the CS+X initiative in Stanford’s Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education. “Computational methods are an increasingly important part of humanities study, and the aesthetic, cognitive, ethical and communicative issues central to the humanities are important to the future of computing. Stanford should be at the forefront of integrating these disciplines.

“We’re also seeing students who want to balance their academic passions with pragmatic considerations about their career development, and this kind of program addresses that need. The intellectual landscape is changing, and the workplace landscape is changing. We’re looking to help cultivate, and provide academic structure for, a new generation of both humanists who can code and computer engineers whose creativity and adaptability is enhanced by immersion in the humanities. With Stanford’s amazingly talented undergraduates, we hope we can educate a new type of humanist and a new type of engineer.”

The core of the joint major concept is integrated learning, one of the key recommendations of the 2012 Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES).

To read the entire news article, visit the News Service website.