Innovations and Opportunities in
Liberal Arts Computing Education

SIGCSE 2021 Pre-Symposium Event by the SIGCSE Committee on Computing Education in Liberal Arts Colleges

Dickinson College

Contributed by Grant Braught,

Institutional and departmental context

Dickinson College was founded in 1783 by Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, “to prepare young people, by means of a useful education in the liberal arts and sciences, for engaged lives of citizenship and leadership in the service of society.”

The Dickinson computer science curriculum leverages our strengths while preparing students for a future in which they apply their skills and knowledge for the greater good. To do so the curriculum:

Curricular overview

Major program

The computer science major requires a total of 13 courses, 11 in computers science (8 required, 3 electives) and 2 in mathematics.

The diagram below illustrates the structure of the major and how the threads of: Writing in the Discipline; Social, Legal and Ethical Issues; and Computing for the Greater Good weave through the courses.

The Dickinson College computer science curriculum

Non-major program(s)

Co-curricular program(s)

The department has a number of co-curricular programs:

Key contributions


Our Writing in the Discipline thread satisfies the all-college writing in the discipline (WID) graduation requirement. In other disciplines this is satisfied by 1 (or 2) courses that students must complete. When they complete those courses they are given the WID credit. For our model we must compile a portfolio of student writing across the courses in our thread and certify at the end of the major that they have satisfied the WID. Thus, we would be interested in any experiences with such a model and/or solutions for portfolio management.