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2014 Spring Issue 2 (April 18, 2014)

Computer Science, History Big Winners as Sophomores Declare

April 18, 2014
By Hart Hornor

A whopping 51 sophomores declared computer science majors, making the department the second most popular department for new majors, behind biology.  

“We’ve been sending the message that [computer science] applies to everything,” Department Chair Amy Csizmar Dalal said. “I think students are hearing that and taking it to heart.”

The recent influx of majors will likely add pressure to an already overwhelmed department. Professor David Liben-Nowell is slated to take on 100 students in Introduction to Computer Science next fall, in order to free up enough professors to teach upper level courses, according to Professor Dalal.

Computer science professors will also have to advise more seniors through the comps process, likely forcing them to meet less often with their assigned seniors. “We’re going to have to get creative,” Professor Dalal said. This year, the department had to deal with only 32 seniors.

Meanwhile, other departments have had flux  in this year’s major declarations will have little impact. According to Registrar Roger Lasley, the number of majors often fluctuate around a mean. “It’s most likely to go like this,” Lasley said, moving his hand in a wave motion.

The history department, for instance, emerged from a four-year dip in majors that included 28 majors in the class of 2012, 18 majors in the class of 2013, 14 majors in the class of 2014, and 25 majors in the class of 2015. The class of 2016 has 33 majors so far.

The English department had a similar recovery.

“I used to say, ‘The humanities are down the drain,’ Political Science Professor Al Montero said. “But they’re back.”

His own department got 41 new majors this year, after getting only 34 new majors last year, a drop that he attributed to the death of Professor Roy Grow, who led a popular study abroad program in China.

He also pointed to growing competition from other departments. The computer science department, in particular, he said, became more appealing to students after the financial crisis of 2008. “The bad economy makes students focus on what they perceive to be a more useful major,” he said.

But the distribution of majors in the class of 2016 may yet change. Registrar Lasley knows students will add second majors, drop majors and switch majors. abroad program in China.

He also pointed to growing competition from other departments. The computer science department, in particular, he said, became more appealing to students after the financial crisis of 2008.

“The bad economy makes students focus on what they perceive to be a more useful major,” he said.

But the distribution of majors in the Class of 2016 may yet change. Lasley said students will add second majors, drop majors, and switch majors.

He expects to see a significant number of double majors added soon. For one thing, only five students have declared a double major so far this year, compared with 42 students who declared double majors by the end of last year.

Morgan Richmond ’16 didn’t consider a double major until last term. Ever since high school, she had been set on economics. Then she took a chemistry class to fulfill her lab science requirement and loved it. Now, she’ i considering majoring in economics and chemistry.

French Professor Scott Carpenter predicted that many students will declare a foreign language as a second major, and the number of foreign language majors will increase from the current numbers. So far, the French department has one new major. He estimates that about half of French majors are double majors. They often major in biology and French because they plan to practice medicine in a francophone country.

Still, the number of majors in a department does not say much about the department, Montero said. “Quantity isn’t enough to give you the whole picture. There may be eight students in philosophy, but they’re doing great work.”   

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