Computer Science has become the most popular major and largest teaching unit on many campuses. This is focusing welcome attention on CS curriculum design: what do we teach, and to whom. The first response to “rising-tide” demand is to go “deep”: more majors, courses, more classroom seats, etc. Rob Rutenbar, previously Head of the Computer Science Department at the University of Illinois argues this is necessary, but not sufficient. Many students need a solid base of computing+data to address challenges in social science, humanities, policy, business, and the like. But they do not aspire to be computer (or even data) scientists.
Rutenbar points out that people need a systematic middle way to take CS “wide” into these diverse disciplines. The University of Illinois CS+X program is a portfolio of novel B.S. degrees, launched in 2014, architected as (Half-CS + Half-X), delivered as a degree in the Dept. of X. Several degrees are now on offer, ranging from CS+Anthropology to CS+Astronomy. The program has surprising traction – for example, one quarter of our Astronomy Dept. is now CS+X, and a dozen more +X degrees are in various stages of design/approval. Professor Rutenbar talks about how they built the Illinois CS+X program, and where it’s going next. He also briefly summarizes a related initiative, the Illinois CS Data Science MS degree, now being delivered on the Coursera MOOC platform.
From 2010 to 2017, Rob A. Rutenbar was Bliss Professor and Head of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he was a principal architect of the CS+X initiative. In July 2017, he became Senior Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Pittsburgh, where he also holds faculty appointments in CS and in ECE.
He received the Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1984, and spent the next 25 years at Carnegie Mellon, where he ultimately held the Jatras Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering. His research has focused on three broad areas: tools for custom ICs; nanoscale statistics for chip design; and custom computer architectures. He’s founded two venture-backed startups, and received several awards for his work, including the 2001 SRC Aristotle Award acknowledging the impact of his students on the U.S. semiconductor industry, and the 2007 IEEE CAS Industrial Pioneer Award. His work has been featured in venues ranging from Slashdot to the Economist magazine. He is a Fellow of the ACM and IEEE.