LAS to offer dual degree with computer science in Fall semester

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is set to offer a new degree program for students who want to pursue degrees in LAS and computer science.

Students will soon be able to receive a degree from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in a discipline such as psychology or biology and computer science, which is offered by Engineering.

Rob Rutenbar, computer science department head, said the department proposed the program in January 2010, and it will be available for the Fall 2013 semester after it is approved by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

“The idea of this degree is that you could do computer science plus anthropology, which would be really interesting if you wanted to study social networks, or you could do computer science plus chemistry. There’s very interesting stuff going on with computational chemistry today,” said Charles Tucker, associate dean of engineering.

Rutenbar agreed that such combinations, such as the computer science and anthropology major, would allow students to examine platforms such as Twitter “from a very professional, human society point of view.”

The degree is aimed at students who are not pursuing computer science degrees but still have to meet the growing demand for computer skills from employers.

“Lots of people who aren’t going to do IT for a living still need to do computational kinds of stuff,” Rutenbar said.

He added that dealing with data and analytics is important in many professions but does not require a computer science degree.

Programs like this have not previously been offered to University students. Double majoring in computer science and LAS is rare because of scheduling and differences in the programs, and majoring in one while only taking a few classes in the other does not provide sufficient knowledge, Rutenbar said.

He said administrators gauged student interest by noting the increasing amount of students from different academic backgrounds opting to minor in informatics.

“We’re constantly seeing some of our colleagues in other places doing really exciting things, like at the intersection of sociology and computing or the intersection of anthropology and computing,” Rutenbar said. “Anything that gets the engineers south of Green is good, and anything that gets the LAS guys north of Green is good.”

Maddie can be reached at rehayem2@dailyillini.com.