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New Center for Computational Thinking to help students in all disciplines learn quantitative skills

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Duke is expanding education in quantitative skills with the creation of a new center.

Computational majors at Duke are here to stay and still growing fast, with computer science now the largest major at Duke and other quantitative fields also popular. The new Center for Computational Thinking will help students across all disciplines learn more about those fields. 

The purpose of the CCT is to “infuse data literacy across the academic experience while simultaneously preparing students to consider the ethical, legal and social impacts of technology,” according to a Tuesday news release.

Faculty in the center will come from all over the University, including from the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, engineering, law and medicine.

Faculty already affiliated with CCT include professors from civil and environmental engineering, medicine, neurosurgery and public policy.

While the center as a whole will focus on computation, that experience will be different for students depending on their majors. For students already involved in computational fields—engineers, statisticians and those in similar fields—the center is intended to bring cutting-edge tools into their time at Duke and apply them to real-world problems. 

Computer science, electrical and computer engineering, mathematics and statistical science departments will also play large roles in the CCT. Its main goals, however, are not confined to these disciplines. Instead, part of the appeal of the CCT is to improve computational literacy among all Duke students, Trinity Dean Valerie Ashby said in the news release.

For those who might have less experience in quantitative courses, the Center will try to bring computational tools into existing curricula—for example, by “highlighting the use of natural language processing for students interested in history, literature, or law,” according to the Center’s website

“This is liberal arts for the 21st century,” Ashby said in the release.

The center came out of discussions between Ashby; Tracy Futhey, vice president for information technology and chief information officer; Ravi Bellamkonda, dean of the Pratt School of Engineering; Rhodes Information Initiative Director Robert Calderbank; and Vice President for Research Lawrence Carin. 

The Center plans to offer both courses and co-curricular activities, including a “seminar-style” component, Futhey said in the news release.

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