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What School Counselors Need to Know About CS

On September 12, 2007 Dr. Debra Richardson, Dean of the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California at Irvine, addressed the University of California High School Counselors and provided the following very valuable information about why computer science is so important.

I want to talk to you this morning about the importance of computer science and information technology education for the next generation.

As you're all aware, everyone's life and work are touched by technology. Technological advances impact all disciplines, which requires interdisciplinary collaboration in research imperatives as well as in education. Interdisciplinary education is a real need for students venturing out into today's global industries.

I'm going to repeat a somewhat controversial quote, but it's something that is echoing the halls of higher education today: Computing and information "is the liberal arts education of the 21st century - the skill that can be universally applied across domains to help solve the toughest scientific, economic and social problems. Nurturing and energizing the next generation of liberal arts specialists will bring about new dreams and new discoveries."

It was Dan Reed, Director of the Renaissance Computing Institute who I first heard say this, and it's just so true. Today's college graduates simply can't call themselves properly educated for the 21st century if they don't have appropriate fluency in computing and information technology.

The Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences prides itself on delivering an interdisciplinary education focused on computing and information technology and how it affects the other disciplines. Our research emphasizes how technological advances improve quality of life and foster economic competitiveness, and this extends to the curriculum we deliver. Today's global industry has become more dependent on students having a multi-disciplinary skill set, and all of our majors target that mix.

Undergraduate work in CS/IT prepares students for a broad range of careers (such as business consulting, software development, systems analysis and administration, and even teaching) and also to attend professional or graduate school.

Now some of you may be saying, "I can't send my students to computer science, there are no jobs." Yet, contrary to the off-shoring hype, the job market in CS/IT is seeing an upward trend. The design and innovation jobs remain here in the U.S. and that's what we train our students for. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor projects that five of the ten fastest growing occupations for college graduates are in the CS/IT sector with over 2 million new jobs in the this sector expected by 2014.

The CS/IT discipline appreciates, seeks out and is made stronger by diversity - diversity of experiences and perspectives, and in gender and ethnicity.

As counselors, you are in a unique position to encourage young people to explore their interests and talents for CS/IT study. Send us your high-achieving students, with or without previous exposure to the field, who are driven by analytical challenges, are creative and design-oriented, and enjoy working with others on team-based problem-solving.

As counselors, you are able to help identify curriculum needs and changes at your high schools that will help increase your students' exposure to and strengthen their skill set with CS and IT concepts.

As counselors, you belong to an important collective of UC partners who are helping tomorrow's educators, doctors, business professionals, leaders and informed citizens to find the path, setting and method that best fit their interests, aptitudes, educational and career goals.

Debra Richardson

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