UC Berkeley proposes college for computing, data science

photo of students working with laptops on campus
Eran Kohen Behar/Staff
UC Berkeley’s Division of Computing, Data Science and Society may transform to a college for computing and data science research, pending approval from the UC Office of the President and then the UC regents within the next year.

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For the first time in more than 50 years, UC Berkeley may open another collegeone for campus’ Division of Computing, Data Science and Society, or CDSS.

According to a Dec. 2021 article from the division’s news page, the data science major on campus was formed in 2018, as was CDSS. The division’s current assistant dean for communications, Tiffany Lohwater, said plans started for the transformation from division to college in 2020.

“Computing and data science research and education has rapidly evolved in the last decade, with increased interest from both faculty and students across the UC Berkeley campus,” Lohwater said in an email. “For example, one in five undergraduate students at Berkeley now take a data science course each year.”

The process started with the development of a “pre-proposal” that built on the work and feedback of faculty, staff and students. The pre-proposal then was submitted to committees on the campus Academic Senate, which provided campus Chancellor Carol Christ and CDSS with feedback.

The proposal includes plans about the university’s steps to carry out the mission of the college and responses to feedback and perspectives from multiple campus stakeholders.

After approval by the campus’s Academic Senate and backed by Chancellor Christ, the finalized proposal awaits approval from the UC Office of the President and then the UC regents. The approval process could be completed in the next year, Lohwater added.

Becoming a college would allow CDSS to have additional control over its curriculum, admissions and enrollments, and to form partnerships and fundraising opportunities between campus departments and other universities, according to the article.

The college would be the first new college or school on campus since the founding of the School of Journalism and the School of Public Policy in the 1960s, according to Lohwater.

Lohwater noted the similarities between the 1960s and the modern day  both times saw changes in higher education as “social upheavals” occurred across the country.

“We are again at a time of critical change,” Lohwater said in the email. “Our lives and our society are being changed by computing and data science: the platforms on which we innovate, communicate, transact, make decisions, and allocate resources.”

Part of the college’s mission is to develop the so-called “tools of tomorrow” as they train computing and data scientists, keeping ethical and social outcomes in mind, Lohwater said.

The college will also seek to find applications for these tools across many fields, Lohwater added, such as biology, medicine and the physical and social sciences.

“Computing and data science are for everyone, and society will benefit from graduates at all levels with the skills that the proposed college will produce,” Lohwater said in the email. “We need diverse perspectives, experiences, and expertise to ensure research and applications represent the needs and interests of society.”

Contact Sebastian Cahill at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @SebastianCahil1.