Pre-registration for Spring 2020

Here we are about to round out the first five years of the computer science program at Whitman! I am still on sabbatical in the spring (yay!) but I’ve offered to do my usual pre-registration round-up based on information my colleagues have provided.

Enrollments for courses cross-listed in CS and Mathematics include students registered under both.

Title Instructor Enrolled Women:Men Waitlist
CS 167-A,B Intro. Computational Problem Solving Loveland 58/60 2:3 0
CS 200 ST: Machine Learning Loveland 21/20 1:4 A few
CS/Math 203 ST: Data Analysis Schueller 24/24 5:7 9
CS 210 Computer Systems Fundamentals Exley 31/24 1:3 A few
CS 270 Data Structures Exley 24/24 1:2.5 0
CS/Math 327 Algorithm Design & Analysis Stratton 24/20 1:2 3
CS/Math 339 Operations Research Hundley 32/15 1:2.5 0
CS 370 Software Design Stratton 25/20 1:3 11
CS 496 Capstone Project Stratton 19/16 1:2 0


  • I’m pleased to see that CS 167 closed again. It seems we are just meeting demand with four sections/year.
  • Ro tells me that the waitlist for his special topics course, Machine Learning, is not as long as it was last spring. He was able to guide students with less math experience towards Albert’s special topic, Data Analysis. Albert tells me the latter course has enrolled 13 students as CS 203 and 11 as Math 203, with 6 remaining on the CS waitlist and 3 on the Math waitlist.
  • CS 210 is significantly overenrolled, but not so badly that we need to create another section like we did last spring. Andy tells me that those remaining on the waitlist are enrolled in CS 270 and seem to be satisfied with that. He also says that only one student in the class is a junior and not a potential major. For better or for worse, our new policy of reserving all seats for sophomores and first-year students seems to be discouraging juniors and seniors from trying to enroll.
  • CS 270 filled exactly. Although we reserved 8 seats for juniors and seniors as usual, only 4 were taken. Thus, the class includes 20 potential CS majors (first- and second-year students). My concern about the growing major and (possibly) shrinking minor intensifies.
  • Doug tells me that CS/Math 339 has more than doubled its enrollment since the last offering! He’s not sure what happened to make the course so popular all of the sudden. 22 students are enrolled in Math 339, and 10 in CS 339. I’m excited to see so many students enrolled as a CS course, since Operations Research provides another perspective on algorithm design. I wonder if this is happening due to a shortage of advanced CS electives.
  • Since it happened that John is teaching all our 300-level core CS courses this spring, he made a spreadsheet to keep track of enrollments in CS 327 and 370 together. His goals were to make sure that seniors would get what they needed to graduate on time, and that juniors, and sophomores with plans for study abroad, would be able to progress through the major requirements. He writes, “every declared or intended major for whom this was their next-to-last Spring semester on campus got a seat in either 370 or 327.” He allowed both courses to overenroll by five students, but he’s still concerned that demand will be even higher next spring. I’m grateful for the effort John has put into making sure our students get what they need—including the extra effort it will take to teach larger 300-level classes this spring.
  • It looks like our overall gender ratio in intermediate- and upper-level classes is around 1 woman for every 2.5 men. Could be better, could be worse. ETA: John points out this may constitute progress since last year, when we had several classes with ratios of 1:4 or higher.
  • I’m pleased that we have two juniors studying abroad this spring.

Of course, our enrollments have implications.

We are searching for a candidate to fill the position that Andy Exley will vacate at the end of this academic year. Our enrollments clearly show the need. Our search is area open in order to draw the broadest possible pool of candidates. Though I’m sad to lose Andy, I’m excited to gain a new colleague. If you’re on the faculty job market, please apply!

We have been invited to propose a fourth tenure track position in computer science. Our argument rests not just on the growing number of majors, but on what it means for opportunities for non-majors: the restrictions we’ve had to place on enrollment in CS 210 and CS/Math 220, the constriction of the CS minor pipeline, and the unmet demand for electives. I’m cautiously optimistic our proposal will be supported.

With the possibility of five further class sections in mind, we have started discussions about the possibility of renovating our upstairs lab, Olin 228, to accommodate a larger number of students.

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