College of Arts & Sciences introduces three new academic offerings

and | Senior News Editors

Washington University’s College of Arts & Sciences made two new majors and a concentration available to students for the 2019-2020 school year.

The University now offers a new joint economics and computer science major, an astrophysics major and a production concentration in the Film and Media Studies department.

With these new areas of study, students are able to explore existing interests further and take a more interdisciplinary approach to their studies.

The joint economics and computer science major, offered through both the College of Arts & Sciences and the McKelvey School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, gives students the ability to study both subjects without having to double major. The joint major requires 20 more credits than the regular economics major.

Sophomore Callan Logan currently plans to declare a primary major in Computer Science + Math in the School of Engineering, with a second major in Economics in the College of Arts & Sciences. Logan said that there is an overlap in skills developed from studying both areas, such as the ability to mathematical model problems and use data.

“Overall, I think that the combination is attractive in the sense that each subject fosters an analytical mindset… You’re usually thinking about problems in similar ways,” Logan wrote in a statement to Student Life. “The reason I’m currently thinking of separate majors is mostly because I didn’t know much about the joint major until this year, so I’ve planned my schedule to try to meet the requirements for the CS+math major as well as for the econ major. That said, there is always a possibility that I could end up switching to CS+econ depending on how my course schedule ends out the next couple of semesters.”

Sophomore Jeffrey Che is also studying economics and computer science but hasn’t decided yet if he wants to pursue the joint major.

“I think the two complement each other well, especially since just about anything benefits from having some CS background. I was exposed to some economic research this past summer, and a bulk of the work was data analysis using programming tools,” Che wrote in a statement to Student Life. “I am fine with a double major, but I do have some other potential interests I’d like to pursue, and taking on the joint major would seem to give me more space to do so.”

According to Francesc Ferrer, director of undergraduate studies in the physics department, the addition of the astrophysics major was “inspired by demand by the students” who had interests in both the physics department and the Earth & Planetary Sciences department.

“It was felt that maybe it would be a good idea to maybe come up with a major that would allow students to focus on astrophysics while, at the same time, probably take some of the upper-level electives in planetary sciences that were related to them,” Ferrer said. “Here, we have the astrophysics research faculty integrated in the physics department. In other universities, you might find that they are separate.”

The physics and astrophysics majors will share the same introductory courses, but astrophysics majors will have the ability to choose electives from Earth & Planetary Sciences. Ferrer said that the curriculum will evolve over time depending on interest.

“Astrophysics and space science is a thriving field of research. There’s a lot of work to do. What we hope is that this will offer them…a focus in astrophysics, but at the same time, the flexibility to complement what is offered in the physics department that can give a broader perspective in astrophysics and space sciences,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer said that another effect of adding the astrophysics major is attracting more women to the physics department.

“If you look at, for instance, the amount of female students in astrophysics departments, usually there are more than in physics at the national level,” Ferrer said. “It was also seen as an opportunity to attract a more diverse body of students.”

Film and Media Studies Director Gaylyn Studlar said they identified a “sizeable minority” of graduating students who’d taken a number of production courses beyond what was required for the major.

“We thought that…can’t we do something in order to support their efforts, both with getting some sort of formal recognition that they’ve essentially done what is the equivalent of–in the English department–the creative writing concentration they have,” Studlar said. “We started looking at the creative writing concentration and trying to figure out how that kind of formula, or having a specialization, creative specialization, might be transferred over to do something similar for Film and Media Studies students interested in production, so that’s how we got started.”

The production concentration requires students to take additional core production courses, as well as 15 elective credits. Studlar said the department anticipates adding more courses.

“We expect to expand some of the offerings here, and also give them opportunities to possibly take courses in other schools and colleges on campus, say the Sam Fox School, that might appropriately count in the concentration,” Studlar said. “It gives them some more options for what they count that already exist on campus or overseas and then we hope to supplement that.”

According to Studlar, the production concentration will allow students “to individualize their program of study.”

“I think that’s the important point, so that if they have a really keen interest in production, they can follow that more than they were able to formerly in classes and with additional academic guidance and support from us,” Studlar said. “I think that’s the important part, that it’s going to give students who are interested in production more opportunities as well as guidance.”

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