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Investments Put Hunter on the Cutting Edge of Computer Science

Computer science at Hunter College is getting a major upgrade. The program is adding new faculty and retooling its curriculum, while also increasing course access to non-majors, so more students can develop vital tech skills or even consider recharting their path to study in this in-demand field. The number of students majoring in the field has skyrocketed as well, increasing tenfold between 2010 and 2018.

And now, because Hunter has been investing so heavily in computer science, the College has received a $5 million, two-year grant to accelerate that progress. Mayor de Blasio’s administration selected Hunter College as one of just two schools to launch the CUNY 2X Tech initiative, which aims to prepare more students for careers in the city’s burgeoning tech sector. The grant will fund paid internships, enhance advising and further expand course offerings and access.

“The world runs on technology—not just in the tech fields but in every major industry,” says Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab. “We’re committed to doubling the number of Hunter students who graduate into great tech jobs, and we’re so grateful to computer science department chair William Sakas for his innovative thinking and deep commitment to achieving that goal.”

Among other changes, Dr. Sakas has begun welcoming tech industry practitioners into classrooms to ensure that the curriculum keeps pace with the rapidly changing skills demanded in today’s workforce. The department also recruited Dr. Kath-erine St. John to teach “Introduction to Computer Science,” a course that is open to all students but also serves as the gateway to a computer science major. The curriculum was rebooted to allow students to learn at their own pace, with some even taking on roles as teaching assistants for their peers. Now, the popular course enables students who may not have considered themselves “techies” to discover hidden talents and enter the field.

“Katherine came in and became our star quarterback for the course,” Sakas says. “Enrollment in her course has grown from 500 to 650 and we expect it to go up to 1,000 in the near future.”

All told, six faculty members have joined the computer science department over the last three years, and the number of majors has grown to more than 800, putting the College well on track to meet the CUNY 2X goal of doubling the number of Hunter graduates who get jobs in the tech industry.

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