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Government Department Introduces Two New STEM-Focused Tracks

The offices of Harvard's Government Department are housed in CGIS Knafel.
The offices of Harvard's Government Department are housed in CGIS Knafel. By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By Cecilia R. D'Arms, Crimson Staff Writer

This upcoming year, students concentrating in Government will be able to specialize in “Data Science” or “Tech Science” for the first time.

The “Data Science” track will focus on quantitative social science methods, while the “Technology Science” track examines challenges that arise at the intersection of society and technology. Director of Undergraduate Studies Cheryl B. Welch said that the programs are “experimental” efforts to expand the Government Department’s focus and provide undergraduates with more guidance and structure as they navigate a “very big and very flexible” concentration.

Faculty said the new programs may draw in undergraduates who otherwise might concentrate in computer science and statistics by offering a marketable skill. The move comes at the end of a decade in which the number of Government concentrators has decreased by more than 100.

Although the program will not appear on students’ transcripts, they will receive signed certificates from the department chair and the department “encourages” them to include the skills on their resume.

Each program requires concentrators to take a specific set of classes within and outside the department.

Should students elect to enter the “Data Science” program, directed by Professor Matthew L. Blackwell, they will be required to take one “Foundations of Data Science” course and three graduate-level “Advanced Methods” courses which will serve as their electives within the concentration.

Students on the “Tech Science” track, led by Professor Latanya Sweeney, will need to take three “Foundations of Technology” courses, one of which — Gov 93B: “Integrated Practicum for Technology Science: Capstone Project” — is a new course this year in which students research and attempt to solve a specific “technology-society conflict,” among other requirements.

These are the first distinct programs of study within the department, but faculty said that more divisions may follow if these prove successful.

“We are interested in developing more areas to let our students do this kind of clustering,” Government Professor Dustin Tingley said. “Public policy is definitely one that we hear a lot about from students.”

Members of the class of 2021 may join these programs of study when they declare their majors, and current juniors and seniors will have an option to join the new fields as well.

Welch and Blackwell said the new programs are also designed to provide structure and community for concentrators.

“There's a general sense in the undergraduate program that they would appreciate more guided advice on how to navigate the Gov program,” Welch said. “The hope is to make not just an honors track but a more vibrant student community around shared interests.”

—Staff writer Cecilia R. D’Arms can be reached at cecilia.d'

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