The University of Arizona

CPATH II: Computational Thinking as a Foundation for Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Education

About the Grant

We were awarded a 3-year NSF CPATH (Pathways to Revitalizing Computer Science Education - NSF CNS-0938763) II grant entitled "Computational Thinking as a Foundation for Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Education" to help support the development of the curriculum for the new School of Information: Science, Technology, and Arts (SISTA) at the University of Arizona. SISTA will support interdisciplinary education focused on the role of computing and dealing with large data sets across multiple disciplines. This new curriculum will expose students to the common ideas in computing in many areas giving them a new view on solving problems in their own discipline.


Project Summary

This project develops, implements, and evaluates core components of the undergraduate curriculum for the School of Information Sciences, Technology, and Arts (SISTA) at the University of Arizona. The vision of SISTA is to identify how ideas in computational thinking, information sciences, and technology apply across a variety of disciplines; to provide a broad foundation in information science and computational thinking for students in many majors; and to foster students' awareness of interdisciplinary relationships starting with their first year at the university. Additionally, new relationships between departments across campus will be formed by engaging faculty in contributing to seminars on issues in computational thinking in their disciplines and in bringing together and supporting multi-disciplinary faculty teams to design, implement, and teach the new courses.

The SISTA curriculum consists of a set of five core classes accessible to students in any discipline, as well as a number of thematic courses on topics, such as Sequences and Networks, that will be of interest to a several disciplines. The design and implementation of these courses will require engaging and building a community of faculty from across the university to focus on the role of computing and computational thinking techniques in their disciplines.

Intellectual Merit

Computational concepts, techniques, and ideas have spread through many traditional disciplines in recent decades, resulting in fields such as Computational Biology and Computational Linguistics that explicitly acknowledge their computational aspects. At the same time, however, most students in such disciplines receive a relatively narrow education that does not expose them to the wide range of computational concepts and techniques pertinent to their fields of study. SISTA aims to address this situation via a campus-wide collaborative effort to train students in all fields in information science and computational thinking. It is not intended to eliminate any existing majors, but to support them more effectively by providing courses that give their students a broader view of computing and how some ideas in their discipline intersect with ideas in other disciplines. Computer Science students will also benefit from this curriculum by understanding what computing means in biology, sociology, economics, ecology, etc. In our quickly evolving world, where solving complex problems requires understanding more than just one's own field of interest and where the ability to work with others is essential, we must provide our students, both in computer science and other majors, with a broader education beginning in their first semester at the university.


For questions about this grant contact Suzanne Westbrook at