CS+X pilot to be discontinued end of spring quarter

Currently declared CS+X students and those who declare by the end of spring quarter, will have the opportunity to complete the joint major.

Stanford Schools of Engineering and Humanities and Sciences have announced that they will not renew the CS+X Joint Major Program (JMP), which was approved by the Faculty Senate in 2014 and began as an experimental pilot program in fall quarter that year.

The decision was presented to the Committee on Undergraduate Studies and Policies (CUSP) on January 22 by Susan Weersing, associate dean for graduate and undergraduate studies in the School of Humanities and Sciences. The School of Engineering presented their decision to CUSP in fall 2018.

All currently declared CS+X students have the opportunity to complete their joint major. Students who plan to declare the CS+X joint major must do so by June 18, 2019, which is the end of spring quarter. After that date, no new joint major declarations will be approved.

“Faculty in both schools are committed to providing advising support for students to complete the joint major successfully,” said Lanier Anderson, senior associate dean for the humanities and arts and J. E. Wallace Sterling Professor of the Humanities. The schools have notified current students in the CS+X JMP of the decision to discontinue the program. Additionally, outreach will be coordinated for students who may be interested in declaring a CS+X joint major.

Academic advisers in Undergraduate Advising and Research are available to meet with undeclared students who plan to declare one of the CS+X majors, as well as with students planning to change majors either to declare a CS+X major or to switch from one of the CS+X majors to a different major.

“The decision not to renew the joint major program was made after a thorough review of enrollment trends and assessment data, including feedback from students and faculty,” Anderson said.

“The CS+X JMP intended to integrate two academic fields through a cohesive, interdisciplinary course of study that was not possible through an existing major,” said Tom Kenny, Richard W. Weiland Professor and senior associate dean for student affairs in the School of Engineering. It reflected the broad interests of Stanford students. The first two majors approved in 2014 were CS+English and CS+Music.

The experimental CS+X JMP aimed to reduce the total unit requirement for each major. However, over the course of the pilot program, both students and faculty advisers agreed that the unit requirements for the joint major were burdensome. Students who dropped a CS+X JMP said there were too many units required and, in some cases, it prevented them from pursuing other academic opportunities, such as studying abroad.

“After reviewing data from the CS+X program, we found that far more students chose to double major in CS and another area, or major in CS and minor in another area, than chose a CS+X joint major,” said Mehran Sahami, professor and associate chair for education in the Department of Computer Science. “Even without CS+X, students interested in CS and another discipline still have a variety of options to combine their interests during their studies, including the Individually Designed Majors in Engineering (IDMENs) program.”

Another challenge students encountered was scheduling classes, including difficulties associated with courses offered at conflicting times and too many required courses offered in the same quarter. Students said that it was almost impossible to plan ahead since class offerings and times changed every year.

While some students were excited about an opportunity to integrate STEM and humanities work, they felt that students bore too much of the responsibility to identify connections between the fields. Their feedback also explained that integration between the two JMP components was not distributed throughout the program, and the only real opportunity for integration occurred with the capstone project their senior year.

Currently, students can explore the intersections of computer science and the humanities through the Digital Humanities Minor and a track in the music major focused on music and technology.

Both the Schools of Engineering and Humanities and Sciences are committed to ensuring that all Stanford undergraduates, regardless of their major, have opportunities for broad exposure to a variety of disciplines throughout the university.

The university will also continue to discuss opportunities by which undergraduates may integrate multiple fields of study within their education. One expectation is that these discussions will be part of two long-range planning design teams focusing on undergraduate education: the Future of the Major; and the First Year: Exploration and Shared Intellectual Experience.

For questions about CS+X, please contact the relevant department.