On Campus: A Degree for Both Sides of the Brain

When Alyssa Reuter had to choose a college, she wanted one that offeredprograms in computer science and the arts. "The one school that wasstrong in both was Carnegie Mellon," she says.

But how couldshe combine her two passions? Getting undergraduate degrees from bothSCS and the College of Fine Arts--a double major--would have meant anextremely heavy workload, because the majors don't have manyoverlapping courses.

As it turns out, Reuter wasn't the onlystudent asking to combine the disciplines into one undergraduatedegree, says Franco Sciannameo, director of Carnegie Mellon's Bachelorof Humanities and Arts (BHA) and Bachelor of Science and Arts (BSA)programs--joint efforts between CFA, the College of Humanities andSocial Sciences, and the Mellon College of Science.

Studentswere literally "knocking on my door," Sciannameo says. From game designand computer animation to computer music and robotic art, technology and the arts are no longer separable, he says. "This is CarnegieMellon, the temple of arts and technology combined. Students come tous, attracted by these two pillars of today's world. The time was right to create another program."

The newly created Bachelor of Computer Science and Arts(BCSA) degree has the enthusiastic support of SCS Dean Randal Bryantand CFA Dean Hilary Robinson, and passed both college councilsunanimously, according to Sciannameo. Eight Carnegie Mellon students(four each from SCS and CFA) transferred into the program this fall.Others will follow in the spring, and the first freshmen are slated toenter the program in the fall of 2009.

The students combinecoursework in SCS with studies in CFA's schools of art, architecture,design, drama, and music. "The BCSA program eliminates some of thecourses that aren't completely necessary for pursuing the combinationof the two," Reuter says. "It makes perfect sense to me. I'm reallyhappy about it."
SCS has long encouraged connections betweencomputer science and other disciplines. Carnegie Mellon's EntertainmentTechnology Center, a joint venture between SCS and CFA, offers the onlymaster's of entertainment technology (MET) degree in the United States,while undergraduate computer science majors already must select a minorin another field. Mark Stehlik, SCS assistant dean for undergraduateeducation and computer science advisor to the BCSA program, saysupper-level courses combining CFA and SCS students have provoked lively interactions. "When you get very creative people with different skillsets working together, magic can happen," he says.

Reuter, now ajunior, plans to go into game development, animation, orspecial-effects production. "I also think that it would be reallyinteresting to explore other ways computer science and art could becombined in more of a gallery situation," she says.

The BCSAdegree also will serve as a pathway to the MET degree; an acceleratedprogram will allow students to complete their BCSA in three and a halfyears and their MET in a year and a half. "The goal of the BCSA programis to help students who really want to achieve a complete fusion of twofields of inquiry," Sciannameo says.

Interest in the BCSA ishigh; Reuter's friends keep telling her the program is a "cool idea."But perhaps the strongest measure of its success are the inquiries thatSciannameo is getting from students in the Carnegie Institute ofTechnology and the Tepper School of Business, who want to know whenthey'll get their own joint degree programs. To which Sciannameo says,"one discipline-bridging program at a time." --Karen Hoffmann (S'04)
For More Information: 

Jason Togyer | 412-268-8721 | jt3y@cs.cmu.edu