Computer science department faces high demand this semester: Department to add three faculty members next year


Staff Writer

Professer Orit Shaer teaches a CS 230 Data Structures course by Pamela Wang '17 Staff Photographer

Professer Orit Shaer teaches a CS 230 Data Structures course
by Pamela Wang ’17
Staff Photographer

Computer science (CS) courses this semester had to wait list a high number of students, especially in the introductory classes.

According to Professor Herbst, who teaches an introductory computer science course, computer science is the fastest-growing department at Wellesley. The department also incorporates media arts and sciences majors.

The increase in interest and demand for computer science courses was first noticed by the department a couple of years ago.

“I’m taking computer science because I think it’s important to have computer skills. There are good jobs for people who know how to code,” Victoria Zhu ’17 said. Zhu is currently enrolled in an introductory computer science course.

CS 110, Computer Science and the Internet, and CS 111, Computer Programming and Problem Solving, are popular introductory courses. But the interest in computer science courses does not end at the introductory level, and the number of computer science majors has increased dramatically in recent years.

According to Professor Mustafaraj, who is also currently teaching CS 110, five years ago only around 10 people majored in computer science. This year, the department has 27 graduating majors. Additionally, more than 30 juniors and almost 25 sophomores have already declared a computer science major.

Due to the large amount of senior computer science majors this year, even 300 level courses fill up quickly. One 300 level course, “Databases with Web Interfaces,” has around 25 students every year. This year, however, there were 60 students who wanted to take the course. Professor Scott Anderson, who teaches the course, had to add another section of the course so that fewer students would be turned away.

The department had to reserve spaces for first years in introductory courses to ensure that first years would be able to enroll in computer science courses. Professor Mustafaraj says this disappointed many students.

“I got 15 sophomores at 8:05 a.m. sending me emails saying, ‘We see empty spaces. Why can’t we take the course?’” Mustafaraj said.

The cap on registration, however, aided many first years, who were able to register for the class more easily.

“I registered for CS 110 because a friend took it last year and she said that the CS community was very supportive and fun,” Hannah Oettgen ’17, a potential computer science major, said. “Computer science teaches you to think in a new way. It’s like learning a new language. It’s so satisfying when you write correct code.”

However, other students had a more difficult time registering for computer science courses.

“I emailed the professor when I couldn’t sign up for CS 110 and she told me that I was 22nd on the waiting list,” Nynika Jhaveri ’17 said.

“Serving all of the people who want to learn computer science has been a challenge,” Mustafaraj said.

Conditions should improve next semester, since the college administration has given the computer science department approval to hire two new professors and one new lab instructor. The department has already begun the interview process to hire for these positions.

According to Herbst, in the past, course caps on the number of students allowed to register for computer science courses were raised to meet student demand.

“In the end, we had to go to the deans and say ‘This isn’t an anomaly and we really need more staff long-term,’” Herbst said.

The computer science department is excited that students are becoming more interested in computer science.

“One of our goals is to get women to discover Computer Science and to feel empowered by it. We want people to be able to take the classes they want to take; that is important at Wellesley,” Herbst said.

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