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Credit: Hain Yoon

The Undergraduate Assembly is considering creating a new computer science certificate for those who want to have computer science qualifications, but are not able to pursue a computer science major or minor.

College and Wharton sophomore Max Grove is the College representative for the UA. He said that he has heard from some College students who want a record of their skills in computer science on their official transcript, but are not able or do not want to commit to fulfilling the six course units required for the CIS minor. 

Grove said newer courses such as CIS 105: "Computational Data Exploration" have inspired students who do not intend to pursue a full major or minor to gain a theoretical proficiency in the subject and hoped to have proof of their experience as well. 

As of 2017, some 40 percent of Penn’s undergraduate population takes at least one course in CIS, said Computer and Information Science Department Chair Sampath Kannan.  

To assist this growing group of students, Grove originally proposed making CIS courses count towards the language requirement for students at a UA meeting two weeks ago. 

Christina Frei, the executive director of language instruction for the College, said she is opposed to the notion that computer science languages are comparable to traditional ones.

“I understand that argument, but these computer languages do not fall into the category of languages, so to speak,” Frei said. “Language is about intercultural communication and intercultural competence.”

With these views in mind, Grove and other members of the UA began considering a new CIS certificate that would be rewarded to students after completing three computer science courses. While the certificate would not replace the language requirement, it would recognize basic computer science skills for students who do not want to pursue a computer science major or minor.

The prospect of a certificate garnered mixed reactions from students. 

Wharton and Engineering senior Kashish Gupta, who is also pursuing a master's degree in computer science, said he was enthusiastic about the concept of a certificate since it could attract more people to take courses in CIS. 

“From a university perspective, I think it would [be] good to have it in general,” Gupta said, “because it will encourage people to pursue more computer science classes. People like labels and accolades for stuff.”

Others like College freshman David Hong found that a three-course certificate might not provide enough information to be useful in a professional capacity.

“A lot of program[ing] expertise depends on what programing language you know,” Hong said. “Honestly, I’m not sure how applicable a certificate would be since the introduction classes might not be comprehensive enough.”

Whether the proposed certificate will ever come to fruition will be decided in the upcoming weeks as UA members meet with the administration to discuss such a possibility.