The University of Notre Dame is launching a bachelor of arts in computer science major, offering undergraduate students the opportunity to obtain rigorous training in the rapidly advancing areas where computer science intersects with the arts, humanities, or social sciences.
Housed in the College of Arts and Letters, the program will involve significant coursework in the College of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering while offering enough flexibility for students to enroll in an Arts and Letters program — a major, supplementary major, minor, or 15-credit hour course sequence of their own design.
“ … students who combine deep studies in computer science with focused study of another field, as required in the BACS program, will be trailblazers as society continues to see integration between computing technology, all professions, and all walks of life.”— Patrick J. Flynn, Duda Family Professor and Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering
The BACS major will be based in the newly established Computing and Analytics Program Office in the College of Arts and Letters, which will house the major together with two thriving tech-focused minors — data science and the Idzik Computing and Digital Technologies Program.
“We are very excited to partner with the College of Arts and Letters on this new major, which will offer a distinctive program of study for students intending to integrate and extend their interests in computing and other fields,” said Patrick J. Flynn, Duda Family Professor and Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.
“We expect the bachelor of science in computer science degree to continue to be one of the largest at the University, and its graduates will continue to enjoy a strong set of employment opportunities. But students who combine deep studies in computer science with focused study of another field, as required in the BACS program, will be trailblazers as society continues to see integration between computing technology, all professions, and all walks of life.”
The new program will include 35 hours of coursework in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, including 23 hours of required courses — such as Data Structures, Systems Programming, and Design and Analysis of Algorithms — and 12 hours of electives.
In addition to mathematics requirements, College of Arts and Letters requirements, and the University Core Curriculum, students will complete 15 or more credit hours in a “cognate area of study” — an area of interest within Arts and Letters. Students will be encouraged to develop and complete a senior thesis project that explores a topic at the intersection of computer science and their cognate area of study.
Technology and the liberal arts
“This new program is a transformational opportunity for students who are passionate about technology and the liberal arts,” said Sarah A. Mustillo, the I.A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters.
“The world needs ethical, critical thinkers making decisions about how technology will impact our daily lives, and the College of Arts and Letters will produce the tech leaders of tomorrow who are prepared to face those pressing challenges.”
The widespread value of communication and critical-thinking skills has led to software development becoming the third most popular type of job for liberal arts graduates, according to LinkedIn, and liberal arts majors are joining the tech industry more rapidly than traditional STEM graduates.
Examples of liberal arts majors making an impact in tech are abundant — the CEOs of Slack, Alibaba, YouTube, and Airbnb all majored in the arts or the humanities. And media sources such as Fast Company and CNBC regularly quote executives from tech companies such as Carbonite, MediaAlpha, and Vidyard about their desire to hire liberal arts graduates because of the valuable skills they bring to their professional roles.
Jay Dettling ’93, the CEO of global marketing agency Ansira and a former executive at Adobe and Accenture, said he foresees graduates of the program standing out on the job market because of their ability to approach problem-solving from a broader perspective.
“Today’s business challenges require that future leaders be versed in the art of storytelling — and the liberal arts background is invaluable in forming those skills,” said Dettling, who majored in economics and computer applications at Notre Dame.
“Diversity in thinking is really important in the formation of teams, and the students who complete this degree will have those qualities coupled with a foundation in computer science.”
— Josh Weinhold, College of Arts and Letters