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Willamette University announces creation of new School of Computing and Information Sciences

by Office of Communications,

Willamette students in a classroom.

Willamette University announced today the creation of a new School of Computing and Information Sciences to support the expansion of its rapidly growing computing and data science programs.

The School of Computing and Information Sciences becomes the university’s fifth school, joining the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Law, the Atkinson Graduate School of Management and the Pacific Northwest College of Art. The formal creation of the new School will help enhance Willamette’s current offerings in computing and information science and create pathways for even more of the interdisciplinary opportunities that Willamette is known for.

“We are already growing and succeeding in this area and will continue to focus on how to make computing and data science more accessible to more students, whether they are art and design students, students who are already well into their careers or students who want to be able to apply computing and information science to the fields of cybersecurity, climate change, public health and beyond,” said Jameson Watts, who will continue his departmental leadership role as dean of the new School. “We’re teaching skills that can be applied in nearly every discipline across the university.”

The School will house Willamette’s existing undergraduate degrees in computing and data science and master's degree in data science, a new master’s degree in computer science and additional planned undergraduate and graduate offerings in computer science, statistics and more. The School will also offer new BS/MS and MS/MBA degrees, data science certificates for JD and MBA students, and, eventually, coursework linking computer and data science to art and design.

The School’s undergraduate programs will remain on Willamette's historic residential campus in downtown Salem, while graduate programs will be offered in Salem and at Willamette's facilities in Portland.

“Computing and information science are among the most in-demand degree programs and courses at Willamette,” said President Stephen E. Thorsett. “The formal creation of the new School helps us enhance our existing offerings in a way that not only helps meet the critical demands of the workforce but equips our students - from all backgrounds and career pathways - with the technological skills they’ll need to fulfill their mission of building a better world. We’re not just teaching them how to write code and read data sets; we’re teaching them how to apply those skills in an ethical, creative and human-centered way.”

By connecting the rigor and personalization of a liberal arts education with the breadth and depth of professional data science programs, Willamette is fulfilling its core mission and preparing the next generation of leaders to address the most complex issues of our time. Graduates of Willamette’s data and computer science programs have gone on to careers with Google, Adobe, Pixar and EA. They are making animated characters come to life on screen, conducting ground-breaking research on human-centered computing and working at the intersections of art and computation.

Willamette’s computing and information sciences programs have grown tremendously over the past few years. With nine full-time core faculty in computer science, data science, and statistics and plans to hire for three more positions over the next year, the university is already home to the largest concentration of expertise among peer institutions in the region.

Computer and data science are among the most popular undergraduate majors at Willamette’s Salem campus. Strong interest in the Introduction to Data Science course - open to all undergraduate majors - prompted faculty to open additional sections. Willamette will offer classes for its master’s in data science on both its Salem and Portland campuses in Fall 2023 due to growing popularity. The largest cohort ever of MSDS students will graduate in August, and a new master’s of computer science program will seat its first cohort of students in Fall 2024.

Best known for its historic campus near the Oregon Capitol, Willamette has a substantial and growing presence in Portland with facilities at the Schnitzer Center for Art and Design in the Pearl, home to the Pacific Northwest College of Art, and classrooms at 200 Market Street downtown. The master's degrees in data science and computer science expand the breadth of Willamette's Portland-based graduate professional programs, which include a top-ranked MBA for Professionals, MFA and MA programs in art and design and a low-residency MFA in Writing.

Growth in Willamette’s computation and data science programs has contributed to overall growth across the university. Willamette's Fall 2023 enrollment is projected to be about 2,550 students, up more than 15% in two years.

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