Greetings, and welcome (if you haven't already been welcomed) to the SIGCSE committee on computing education in liberal arts colleges. Thanks to everyone who came to our gathering at SIGCSE. I was pleasantly surprised at how big that was (35 - 40 people), and at the enthusiasm the folks there showed for the committee's job. Alyce Brady took some good notes on the conversation, which are the basis for this message.
Much of the conversation was about what the committee might do, and another theme that kept popping up was the question of just what we will mean by the phrase "liberal arts." These are basically the first two things we need to work on in any case, so the first thing I want to do is set the following agenda for the next couple of months. Please consider yourselves charged to use this mailing list to discuss your ideas about the following 2 items:
1. What we mean by "liberal arts." There is temporary definition in the committee's goals and focus statement (http://sigcse.org/sigcse/programs/committees/liberal
), roughly "liberal arts college" as a place that emphasizes liberal education -- in the words of the goals and focus, "a post-secondary institution that emphasizes education for the breadth
of graduates' career, civic, and personal lives, in contrast to
institutions that focus on more narrow preparation (e.g., for a specific
profession)." But this is only one of many definitions bouncing around. Another I've seen boils down to a college that emphasizes disciplines in the arts, humanities, and sciences over disciplines in more professional areas, and another amounts to colleges that fit an institutional profile of being small, undergraduate, and (usually) private. We absolutely do *not* have to use the definition from the goals and focus statement. There's a lot of overlap between definitions and their implications, but there are also enough differences that if we don't adopt some statement of what we will mean by the term, we're likely to find ourselves talking past each other as we get down to the real work.
2. We also need to identify a set of issues that we will concentrate on. Again, the goals and focus statement mentions two, but a lot of others came up in conversation at SIGCSE. If we have a manageable set of these in place by, say, mid-June (not at all accidentally, a date that most of us in the US can equate to "about when my semester/quarter ends," whichever kind of calendar you use, and that I hope any non-US participants can equate to some similar calendar milestone) we can use the summer to start gathering whatever data we need to shape answers. The questions from the goals and focus statement are