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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


UW creates new school for computer, data and information sciences to meet rising demand

As a division in College of L&S, new school aims to bring closer collaboration with colleges of different disciplines
Marissa Haegele

For the first time in two decades, the University of Wisconsin announced the creation of a new division of the College of Letters & Science on September 5 — the School of Computer, Data and Information Sciences.

The school was created in response to rising interest of both employers and students in computer science. According to a UW news website, computer science has grown to be the most popular major at UW and has 1,560 students.

Interim Dean of L&S Eric Wilcots said there are many reasons for making the new school. Besides the fact computer science is the largest major on campus, Wilcots said that over the past few years, there has been an enormous ramp-up in student interest in computer science.


Wilcots also said there has also been a complementary rise of interest in data and information both locally and globally.

“The world itself is becoming more intertwined and more dependent upon issues around computer science, data and information,” Wilcots said.

Other reasons for the establishment of CDIS include increased collaboration, research and funding, Wilcots said. Additionally, the school will act as a focal point for closer collaboration between CDIS and colleges of other disciplines.

Wilcots also said the university hopes the creation of CDIS and its subsequent research projects will attract businesses across the state to provide further funding for the school.

Money begets money: Increased funding for computer science will prove beneficial for Wisconsin

Chancellor Rebecca Blank had appointed a task force to review computing in Wisconsin, which recommended bringing the departments of computer science, statistics and information under one umbrella.

“This new structure will allow new resources to flow in, and so it’s not a question of re-slicing the pie — by bringing this structure together, we are going to bring new resources and make the pie bigger,” Wilcots said.

According to the L&S website, the School of CDIS is a new division alongside the three broad divisions — arts and humanities, social sciences, and physical and natural sciences.

Wilcots said the school is already making future plans related to its hiring process and curriculum. Research in interdisciplinary areas of human-computer interaction and robotics under the school has already started and students could enroll in new courses related to data science starting fall 2019, Wilcots said.

UW freshman Binay Singh Chawla is currently enrolled in Introduction to Data Modeling, one of the new data science courses.

“I am really excited for the new courses,” Chawla said. “I think making the School of CDIS will certainly promote more research into my interests and help further the Wisconsin idea.”

The school’s founding director Tom Erickson said it will now be easier for students to enroll in classes due to additions of faculty members.

Erickson said a number of certificates, or minors, will also be introduced for students regardless of their major or college. For instance, psychology students can minor in computer science and work in the areas of cognitive science that study artificial intelligence.

“That will change something dramatically for students across the campus,” Erickson said. “In addition, we are offering programs and courses that aren’t currently offered and they will expand the variety of things that students can study. We’re also talking about changing some of the basic requirements for L&S students — add new requirements but change the basic courses they’re taking now to maybe add more digital components to the courses L&S students have to take.”

Erickson also said the school was going to announce a new major in November, after getting approval from the Board of Regions. New certificates are currently being discussed, and Erickson said the new major is expected to be very popular.

“We have brought in a director from outside academia to bring in a different perspective on how we can grow,” Wilcots said. “UW-Madison is doing something a bit unique. There are lots of possibilities — it’s exciting. We’ll have to make sure we’re doing the right things at the right pace, and I think that the future is really bright. We are on the cusp of something different.”

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