Dominican University of California and San Francisco-Based Make School are Collaborating on a Creative New Venture
Dominican and Make School have submitted an application to the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) to enter an incubation relationship. The partnership will enable Dominican to offer a minor in Computer Science and Make School to offer an accelerated bachelor’s degree in Applied Computer Science under Dominican’s oversight.
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“Dominican and Make School are creating an academic partnership unlike any other in the nation,” said Dominican University of California President Mary B. Marcy. “Both of our institutions are focused on designing academic programs that are relevant, rooted in real-world active learning experiences, and prepare students both academically and emotionally for career success.”
The BS in Applied Computer Science will combine technology with the liberal arts. Courses, offered at Make School’s San Francisco headquarters, will be taught by both Make School and Dominican faculty. Dominican courses in Science and Letters will account for 36 of the degree’s 124 units. Students interested in the bachelor’s degree will apply via Make School.
Computer Science has historically been a male-dominated discipline, yet more than 65 percent of Dominican’s students are female. One outcome of the partnership – through offering a computer science minor – will be to provide female students a pathway to careers in tech. Another outcome is to increase pathways for racially and ethnically underrepresented students. About 23% of Dominican students are first-generation students and 71% identify as ethnically diverse.
Like many smaller colleges, Dominican does not currently offer a computer science concentration, but sees increased demand from students to integrate technology in to the curriculum in many disciplines. The computer science concentration will enable greater access to employment opportunities in and adjacent to the tech industry.
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The CS minor will be cross-disciplinary and accessible to students in any major, with courses taught at Dominican by both Dominican and Make School faculty. The CS minor will add to Dominican’s distinctiveness in the higher education marketplace because it will equip students with coding and programming skills to develop software, web-based applications, and mobile applications.
“The partnership represents a dramatic new way for Dominican to present its curriculum and tremendous opportunities for our students and faculty, including access to Make School’s existing relationships with Silicon Valley tech employers,” Marcy said. “Dominican will be able to tap the sort of practitioner expertise in emergent, high-growth fields that colleges – especially smaller colleges – often struggle to tap into.”
Offering CS courses will differentiate Dominican among peers, without Dominican having to invest up-front in an expensive, highly specialized Computer Science department. This partnership could become a model for other small colleges to follow.
The Dominican/Make School partnership has been developed over the past year, with a strong focus on shared governance. This included extensive evaluation of the Make School curriculum and academic calendar by Dominican faculty, ongoing conversations between the existing faculty at both campuses, student focus groups, the development of a faculty digital curriculum task force, and insight gained from external consultants and members of Dominican’s Board of Trustees who have background in the technology sector. More than 85% of faculty voted to approve the partnership.
Marcy credits WSCUC’s new Incubation Policy for supporting innovation in higher education. The policy allows for an innovative or experimental educational entity needing time to demonstrate long-term viability to be incubated by an already well established and accredited WSCUC institution.
“We had several meetings with the WSCUC staff to understand issues they had seen in other partnerships, and to learn what questions we should ask as we pursued a relationship,” Marcy said. “They were essential in helping us evaluate the difference between innovation and opportunism, and in informing the framework we used for developing a formal relationship.”
Make School, established in 2012, offers educational programs that prepare students for careers in the software industry. Dominican, established in 1890, offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the liberal arts, health sciences, education, and business. The two are aligned in terms of mission and commitment to student success, including a focus on intense coaching and mentoring, project-based learning, and use of digital portfolios to highlight and share student work.
“We are excited about our new partnership because we believe we have used the right processes and conducted due diligence,” Marcy said. “We are excited because we believe this partnership holds the promise of greater opportunities for students, strengthening our faculty and staff capacity in critical areas, and highlighting a new, collaborative way of providing high quality education.”