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Campus supports computer science initiative to serve students interested in computational sciences

Mia Minnes is one of the principal investigators on the grant. 

San Diego, Calif., July 24, 2015 -- In an era of limits on the number of freshmen and transfer students accepted into computer science and engineering majors, the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of California, San Diego 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, a computer science assistant teaching professor and Lynne Keith-McMullin, the department’s student affairs director, 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 an 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, including at 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 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.”

Students take a class in an auditorium
at Atkinson Hall. 

"The new campus grant will allow us to develop tools and workshops to expose students to the various majors that may fit their interests, and to reinforce the importance of exploring, growing, learning and enjoying college life," said Keith-McMullin. "These new tools will help us help them to think in terms of academic and career goals instead of being solely focused on one single major."

The most obvious alternate majors might include cognitive science, which has a specialization in computation and biology (for computational biology or bioinformatics). 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 in partnership by the departments of computer science and mathematics.

Prior to submitting the grant proposal, the Department of Computer Science and Engineering staged several information sessions to convey the new goals-based approach to advising students interested in computational sciences. "The feedback in assessments was very positive from those attendees who filled out the survey," added McMullin, "even from those students who came to the realization that another major was a better fit for their academic and long-term goals."

Even as more students are channeled to other majors, the department is making it possible for many more students from across campus to take classes offered by the department. "CSE is committed to serving all students, who can take computer science courses and study computer science material," said Keith-McMullin. "Our class enrollments have tripled as we make room for everyone to explore the CSE major" in courses that in some cases require few or no pre-requisites.

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Doug Ramsey
Jacobs School of Engineering
Phone: 858-822-5825
dramsey@ucsd.edu

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