Willamette University Announces Creation of New School of Computing and Information Sciences

Willamette University today announced the creation of a new School of Computing and Information Sciences to support the expansion of its rapidly growing computer science 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 computer science and information sciences and will create pathways for even more of the interdisciplinary opportunities for which Willamette is known.

“We are already growing and succeeding in this area and will continue to focus on making computer 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 computer science 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 are teaching skills that can be applied across almost any discipline in the university.”

The school will house Willamette’s existing undergraduate degrees in computer science and data science and master’s degree in data science, a new master’s degree in computer science, and additional 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 finally, courses that link computer science and data science to art and design.

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

“Computer science and information sciences are among the most in-demand undergraduate and graduate programs in 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 needs of the workforce, but equips our students – from all backgrounds and career paths – with the technology skills they will have need to fulfill their mission to build a better world.We’re not just teaching them how to write code and read data sets; we’re teaching them how to apply these skills in an ethical, creative, and human-centered way.

By bridging 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 tackle the most challenging 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’re bringing animated characters to life on screen, conducting groundbreaking research in human-centered computing, and working at the intersections of art and computation.

Willamette’s computer science and information science programs have grown tremendously in recent years. With nine full-time core faculty in computer science, data science and statistics and plans to take on three more positions over the next year, the university already hosts the largest concentration of expertise among peer institutions in the region.

Computer Science and Data Science are among the most popular undergraduate majors on Willamette’s Salem campus. The strong interest in the introductory data science course, which is open to all undergraduates, prompted teachers to open additional sections. Willamette will offer classes for its data science master’s degree on the Salem and Portland campuses in fall 2023 due to growing popularity. The largest-ever cohort of MSDS students will graduate in August, and a new master’s program in computer science will host 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 of the Pacific Northwest College of Art, and classrooms at 200 Market street downtown. The data science and computer science masters expand the breadth of Willamette’s Portland-based professional graduate programs, which include a top-tier MBA for professionals, MFA and MA programs in art and design, and a low-residence MFA in Writing .

The growth of Willamette’s computer and data science programs has contributed to overall growth across the university. Willamette’s Fall 2023 enrollment is projected to be approximately 2,550 students, an increase of more than 15% in two years.

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