The UCSB Dept. of Computer Science recently announced the latest addition to its collection of optional major emphases for its Bachelor of Arts degree.

Following the creation of geography and biology concentrations for the degree program last year, the department is further expanding the range of options available to computer science students – adding an economics emphasis to its roster of choices. Students can add the emphasis beginning Fall Quarter of next year.

The UCSB Academic Senate – the faculty body responsible for approving any changes to university curricula – approved the computer science department’s request to add the new emphasis on Nov. 1.

According to computer science Department Chair Linda Petzold, the department established the concentration in hopes of attracting students who desire broader curricula than those currently available in the department’s B.A. program.

Petzold said the new emphasis will help retain current computer science students who feel the major is too restrictive or corresponds too closely to a Bachelor of Science major in computer science, as it will appeal to more students with a broader range of interests.

“The requirements for the B.S. and the B.A. programs have become technically very similar,” Petzold said. “We decided to include the [economics] emphasis in order to offer students a choice, as well as to give a difference to the B.A. major.”

Petzold said the department’s decision to create the new emphasis was in part inspired by rising concerns among computer science students that many jobs in the field are being outsourced overseas. She said the emphasis may give UCSB students a competitive edge in the future when they enter the job market.

“Part of our decision to add the economic emphasis [was] because employers indicated that they are interested in people with skills in economics,” she said.

According to Petzold, the department also has trouble recruiting and maintaining female and minority students in their degree programs, a problem that she said the new emphasis could also address.

“One problem that we have is the [loss] of women and minorities in the major,” Petzold said. “Many are leaving or switching majors because they want a major that is more broad. By offering the emphasis in economics, we are trying to keep our students, as well as attract a whole new type of computer science student.”

Computer science professor John Gilbert, who was involved in the planning process for the new emphasis, said the computer science and economics departments are collaborating on the effort to design curriculum for the program.

“We decided to add the new emphasis in part because many of our undergraduates are interested in other fields and wanted to combine computer science with those fields – especially economics,” Gilbert said. “Computer science also shares many core classes and concepts with economics. We are coordinating the economics emphasis directly with the department of economics to plan our classes.”

According to Gilbert, the biology, geography and economics emphases available to students in the B.A. program reflect where the computer science field is headed.

“In my mind, these three areas represent the direction that computer science is going to be focused in for the future,” Gilbert said. “They are moving the undergraduate program into the future.”