By Brandon Scalea
Beginning next semester, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will offer a computer science major, a field that has been in high demand among college students in recent years, according to John Bochanski, assistant professor of physics and the new program’s director.
Some of the courses offered will deal with coding, algorithm development, computer architecture and data science, according to Bochanski. He worked with Elizabeth Hawthorne, a Rider alumna and world-class expert on computer science curricula, to develop the program.
Bochanski said he started thinking about a computer science major when he interviewed for a job at Rider in 2014.
“I recognized that the science students didn’t have any formal programming classes, so I wanted to at least add a class,” he said. “I started working on that my first year and offered a version of this called Physics 250: Scientific Computing. As that class developed, I looked into adding a major.”
Bochanski said the process of introducing a new program is pretty cumbersome. The major will offer 16 new courses, and each course requires its own written proposal to the administration. There were also additional proposals to outline the resources needed for the major and minor. In total, Bochanski said, there were close to 80 pages of paperwork.
The complete proposal was approved earlier this month by the state, which is the final step.
Bochanski said the easiest part of the process was getting other faculty on board with his plan.
“I set out to get the faculty excited about it, and I chatted with whoever wanted to hear from me,” he said. “The computer information systems faculty in the College of Business Administration were really excited and helpful. There will be some computer information systems and computer science classes crosslisted. And, of course, my own department was excited and helpful in getting the major approved. It is a long process.”
Jonathan Millen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, doesn’t think it’ll take long for the major to thrive.
“Students should pursue computer science because the skillset provided by that major is probably the most sought-after skillset in the marketplace today, pure and simple,” he said.
After all, computer science jobs are in high demand. The National Association of Colleges and Employers says there are currently more computing jobs available than there are computer science graduates. The median salary of these graduates in 2015 was $57,273, according to a Rider press release.
The major will have one designated faculty member in its first year, Millen said. The plan is to bring in four more over the next five years. As enrollment grows, so will the faculty.
The new program comes at a time when Rider needs to raise its enrollment to avoid further financial hardship. Bochanski is confident a computer science major is a step in the right direction to solving that problem.
“This is one of the most popular programs in the country and has been for most of the last 20 years,” Bochanski said. “Computer science graduates make more money and get more job offers than the average college graduate, and there is no indication these trends are changing any time soon. I’m very excited this program will be offered at Rider and for the opportunities it presents to our students.”