Pre-registration for Fall 2020

What a wild ride this spring has been! As of 9 am this morning, for my colleagues who had grades to submit, the spring semester is finally officially over. We had a lovely Commencement, plus an end-of-year department social and a departmental Commencement reception for students and their families – all online, of course. Congratulations to the class of 2020!

Although it’s been a few weeks since pre-registration for fall, this is the first chance I’ve had to blog about it. Walla Walla was just approved for Phase 2 reopening, our new babysitter started today, and my summer research students will start on Monday.

This spring’s pre-registration was unusually unsettling. While we didn’t change our offerings or course descriptions in response to fall contingencies, course staffing has been an ever-shifting landscape. Our search for a visiting professor was cancelled, along with several other open searches across the College, just as we were about to start our screening interviews. Weeks later, with a strong local candidate, we negotiated to have the search reinstated.

I’m pleased to announce that Cary Gray will be joining us for the 2020-21 academic year after a long career at Wheaton College. (Incidentally, I read his Ph.D. work in my graduate class on Distributed Systems.) With Cary, new tenure-track colleague William Bares, and longtime colleague John Stratton, we will be able to offer a full slate of classes. However, some changes are still forthcoming; enrolled students will be the first to hear.

Number Title Enrolled Women:Men Waitlist
CS 167-A Intro. Computational Problem Solving 30/30 1:2 2
CS/Math 220 Discrete Math & Functional Programming 28/24 1:2.5
CS 267 Human-Computer Interaction 24/16 1:3 2
CS 270 Data Structures 17/24 1:2 4
CS 310 Computer Systems Programming 22/20 1:3 6
CS 320 Theory of Computation 24/20 1:4
CS 495 Capstone Project 26/32 1:3


  • This spring, I consulted with a student who uses “they” pronouns on my reporting of gender in these blog posts. We agreed that the ratio of women to men is an important metric for our program’s inclusiveness. However, I should note that the identification of a student as a woman or man is based on how they are presented in the course roster and may not reflect their self-identification. Moreover, I’m aware this metric leaves out some students who do not identify with the gender binary. I hope that presenting ratios rather than exact numbers gives a sense of gender representation in our classes while holding a space for those who are not represented correctly.
  • Based on uncertainty about staffing, we decided to offer only one section of CS 167 and reserve all seats for the rising second-year class. That backfired somewhat: While we had intended to reserve any leftover seats for incoming students, in fact the class remained open at the conclusion of pre-registration and all the remaining seats were taken by rising juniors and seniors. Fortunately, hiring Cary lets us restore the second section. Once that is scheduled, we’ll ask enrolled students to consider switching to the new section so there is a mix of class years in each section.
  • Enrollment in CS/Math 220 is almost the same as last fall, suggesting we’ll have a similar number of CS majors in the class of 2023 as in the class of 2022. (How many is that? We don’t know yet. Due to all the upset this spring, many rising juniors haven’t yet declared their majors.)
  • We are committed to offering a CS elective this fall and another this spring. CS 267 was a last-minute addition to address that commitment. Due to further staffing changes, it may yet be canceled and replaced with a new special topics course. Enrolled students will be the first to know once the elective is settled.
  • As always, we are reserving seats for incoming students in CS 270. The waitlist includes two potential majors and two minors, so I hope we are able to make space for them.
  • We have rising seniors who plan to complete double majors in Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, and Sociology. At the last minute, we moved the meeting time for CS 320 to avoid conflicts with required courses for those other majors. We discovered too late that the new time conflicts with a required course for an intended double major in Religion. Ouch. Still, even this glitch is emblematic of one of the lesser-known benefits of studying at a liberal arts college: we’re willing and able to rearrange our class schedule to accommodate double majors.
  • The department had a careful discussion about enrollments in CS 310. We determined that the waitlist for CS 310 consists of rising juniors who are already enrolled in CS 320. Since they are making adequate progress in the major, we decided they are taken care of and we don’t need to accommodate them in 310 as well.
  • Enrollment in the Capstone Project is reserved for rising seniors who have declared the CS major. This year, we added a second section of CS 495 to accommodate the number of declared majors, which peaked at 28 and then dropped to 24. In the midst of pre-registration, we discovered that we had two more rising senior intended CS majors who had not yet declared. That discovery meant that John had to come up with a sixth project quickly, since we did not want to have any teams bigger than five students. Most rising seniors have submitted their project preferences, and we are starting to talk about assigning teams.
  • Reviewing all enrollments, classes are full but waitlists are short. In other words, supply is coming very close to meeting demand. This may suggest that interest in the CS major has reached a plateau. It may also reflect the limitations we’ve placed on enrollment in CS 210 and 220 to ensure there is enough space for potential majors.

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