Duke Launches Center to Bring Computational Thinking to All Students

‘CCT’ will elevate computing research while adding learning and practical application across campus

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke students will soon emerge more prepared to use data to create new knowledge in a host of disciplines thanks to the newly launched Center for Computational Thinking (CCT).  The new center is a response to the growing demands for more computational skills among new college graduates. It will infuse data literacy across the academic experience while simultaneously preparing students to consider the ethical, legal, and social impacts of technology.

“The CCT will provide training in a co-curricular seminar-style to complement traditional Duke classes, and inspire curricular innovation,” said Tracy Futhey, vice president for information technology and chief information officer.

The new center is an outgrowth of discussions among Futhey, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences Dean Valerie Ashby, Pratt School of Engineering Dean Ravi Bellamkonda, Robert Calderbank, the leader of the Rhodes Information Initiative, and Larry Carin, the vice president for research. Its core faculty come from Arts & Sciences, Engineering, Law and Medicine.

The CCT also represents a core priority within Duke Science and Technology, a faculty hiring and fundraising effort designed to create sustained support for discovery science and strategic investments in specific areas of science and technology across all of Duke.

“We also recognize that we want all Duke students to be computationally literate – regardless of major or minor. Computational thinking is about adopting a specific mindset and approach to problem solving. This is liberal arts for the 21st century.”
-- Valerie Ashby

“The departments of Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mathematics, and Statistical Science will play a central role in CCT by innovating their pedagogy, introducing new pathways into the disciplines and further refining existing curriculum,” Dean Ashby said. “But we also recognize that we want all Duke students to be computationally literate – regardless of major or minor. Computational thinking is about adopting a specific mindset and approach to problem solving. This is liberal arts for the 21st century.”

CCT programs will connect students to a variety of accessible learning opportunities through multiple pathways, including curricular team-based learning, co-curricular learning to enhance coursework, and personalized learning through workshops, project-based experiences, summer programs and events.

For students in traditional computational majors, the CCT will introduce the latest computational tools, demonstrating how concepts learned in the classroom can translate to practical, real-world applications.

For students in non-computational majors, the CCT will align computational principles and methods with broader student interests, such as integrating image-analysis techniques into biology courses or using natural language processing for history, literature, or law.

For all students, the CCT will also integrate co-curricular and curricular offerings in the ethics and policy of emerging technologies.

“Computing is profoundly impacting all the things we do as humans, from how we interact and how we are entertained to our politics and social discourse,” Dean Bellamkonda said. “The Duke CCT will be our vehicle to reimagine ways of integrating computational thinking into all of our students’ experience, whether their studies are focused on science, technology, the humanities or the social sciences.

To learn more: computationalthinking.duke.edu/news