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Whats The Difference Between A CompSci Degree In A Liberal Arts College Vs Tech University?

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Replies to: Whats The Difference Between A CompSci Degree In A Liberal Arts College Vs Tech University?

  • simba9simba9 Registered User Posts: 2,694 Senior Member
    edited August 13
    Any reason Jelinek didn't do his groundbreaking NLP work at a LAC?

    LACs focus on undergraduate teaching rather than graduate-level research. Large research universities often give short-shrift to undergraduate teaching to focus on graduate students and research.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 63,552 Senior Member
    tk21769 wrote:
    Suppose you wanted to combine CS with Geology in a double major.
    Some of the Keck Consortium LACs would seem to be good for that
    (https://keckgeology.org/member-schools/).

    Would they compare well in CS and geology to the small schools with "Mines" or "Mining" in their names?
  • merc81merc81 Registered User Posts: 7,325 Senior Member
    edited August 13
    Would they compare well in CS and geology to the small schools with "Mines" or "Mining" in their names?
    By reputation, I associate "mines" schools with aspects of geology such as mineralogy, petrology and forms of sedimentology that have direct economic applications, but to a lesser extent with varied topics such as plate tectonics, general sedimentology, geomorphology and glaciology that a LAC student might prefer.
  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk Registered User Posts: 895 Member
    "LACs focus on undergraduate teaching rather than graduate-level research. Large research universities often give short-shrift to undergraduate teaching to focus on graduate students and research."

    Yeah he probably didn't learn anything at MIT, given he was taught by grad students.

    Is it possible that a grad student at MIT knows more about a computer science than a professor at a LAC, any LAC?

  • UWfromCAUWfromCA Registered User Posts: 1,072 Senior Member
  • UWfromCAUWfromCA Registered User Posts: 1,072 Senior Member
    edited August 13
    ^ "professsor" should not type on phone without glasses. :-B
  • simba9simba9 Registered User Posts: 2,694 Senior Member
    @theloniusmonk , you're taking one data point and using that to make a generalization. Not a good idea.
  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk Registered User Posts: 895 Member
    @simba9

    What data point, the Jelinek one? I didn't bring that up, someone else did and I disagreed with the premise, that someone studying under him at JHU gets a PHd there and becomes a professor at a LAC where you're doing your CS undergrad, is as good as studying CS at a school like JHU itself.

    Jelinek being at a top-notch research university and becoming and innovator in NLP proves my point, not refute it. And I understand when I'm making conclusions from anecdotal data.




  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 63,552 Senior Member
    Most of the arguments in this thread seem to be trying to generalize from one data point (whether it is Jelinek, Stanford, Amherst, etc.).
  • tk21769tk21769 Registered User Posts: 9,805 Senior Member
    edited August 14
    What data point, the Jelinek one? I didn't bring that up, someone else did and I disagreed with the premise, that someone studying under him at JHU gets a PHd there and becomes a professor at a LAC where you're doing your CS undergrad, is as good as studying CS at a school like JHU itself.

    Fair enough, although you're slightly misstating my point.
    I'm not making strong claims that one kind of school is as good as or better than the other.
    Either kind has pros/cons one might want to weigh and consider.

    I'm back to the point I made way back in #3:
    In general, a LAC will tend to give you more personal attention but a research university will offer more course selection. In general. The poster in #5 apparently thought that statement was "misinformation". I'm still not sure why.

    But ok, on the RU side, there may indeed be additional advantages such as greater opportunities for direct/indirect exposure to tip-top scholars. The RU benefit may go beyond a classroom connection to specific scholars/professors, if (whether or not they actually teach undergrads, or teach them effectively) their knowledge percolates down through the whole institution. Intellectual trickle-down. The resulting intellectual buzz (if not the classroom instruction) may indeed be stronger at a good research university.

    Part of the value proposition for a top LAC is in the extension of teaching to mentored research projects. In the "Comps" process at Carleton, a student writes a comprehensive paper over 3 terms, sits for a 4-hour written exam, or (in CS) completes an ~ambitious project. Here's an example of a Carleton CS Comps project:
    http://cs.carleton.edu/cs_comps/1718/latin/index.php

    I think it would be harder at state university scale to manage something like Carleton's Comps process very well. Could a project like that be done better at a place like JHU? Maybe so.
  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk Registered User Posts: 895 Member
    edited August 14
    "Most of the arguments in this thread seem to be trying to generalize from one data point (whether it is Jelinek, Stanford, Amherst, etc.)."

    I agree and just for the record, I didn't bring up any of those points, the flaw in this thread is that just looking at courses is not sufficient when comparing colleges. As the old saying goes, half of what you learn in college is outside of classes. You have a better chance of learning more about CS - how it's used in business to solve problems, how its impacted by hardware, etc. at a tech oriented school (MIT, CMU, Cal Tech) or RU, private or public (Stanford, Michigan, Berkeley, Illinois, Cornell, JHU, Penn) than a LAC.
  • circuitridercircuitrider Registered User Posts: 2,474 Senior Member
    @theloniusmonk
    You have a better chance of learning more about CS - how it's used in business to solve problems, how its impacted by hardware, etc. at a tech oriented school (MIT, CMU, Cal Tech) or RU, private or public (Stanford, Michigan, Berkeley, Illinois, Cornell, JHU, Penn) than a LAC.

    Love how we keep re-litigating the same points. Sure, if you prefer spending your time around TAs and grad students discussing advances in technology between classes, Stanford, Michigan, Berkeley, Illinois, JHU, and Penn may be your place. If you want one-on-one mentoring from a full-time professor, pursuing their own research, you're better off at a LAC.
  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 Registered User Posts: 251 Junior Member
    It seems to me that the primary value proposition for liberal arts colleges in general (from numerous threads) is a smaller more intimate learning experience. Unfortunately, that very value proposition limits them in many ways when it comes down to CS in particular.

    Smaller faculty means less expertise to draw from (just by sheer numbers), so while LAC’s should be able to provide great teaching in the basics they will surely be limited in covering the ever growing breadth of CS topics no less depth in those same topics.

    Smaller CS classes in general is a plus at any school especially in higher-level classes. However, I’m not sure if there is really any added benefits in the basic classes. While I can see the benefits of a small group of students huddled with a professor sitting in front of a fireplace discussing Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, I somehow don’t see the same benefits if they were instead discussing First Fit vs Buddy System heap allocators.

    One-on-one mentoring is great, but to say you’re better off in a LAC is to ignore the fact that more research opportunities are available at larger research schools (hence the tag), and all of the RUs that I’m familiar with promote undergraduate participation.
  • yikesyikesyikesyikesyikesyikes Registered User Posts: 1,494 Senior Member
    edited August 14
    @circuitrider

    Cutting-edge CS research happens in greater amounts at RUs (the resources needed are immense), and most ground-breaking discoveries and achievements occur at RUs - and most upperclassmen interested in research are able to get research positions during the school year or summer. In some top RUs it is not even that hard for even freshmen to get research opportunities.

  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk Registered User Posts: 895 Member
    "Love how we keep re-litigating the same points. Sure, if you prefer spending your time around TAs and grad students discussing advances in technology between classes, Stanford, Michigan, Berkeley, Illinois, JHU, and Penn may be your place. If you want one-on-one mentoring from a full-time professor, pursuing their own research, you're better off at a LAC."

    You've been saying the same thing about LACs as well, so I've been very clear on my position - can you clarify yours? Are you saying that there are some LACs that are better than Stanford, CMU, MIT, Berkeley, Michigan, Cal Tech, Princeton, Harvard, Cornell, JHU for CS. If so which ones.
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