Publication Date


Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings






With an exponential increase in user-generated data, there is a strong and increasing demand for employees possessing both technical skills and knowledge of human behavior. Supported by funds from the National Science Foundation Division of Undergraduate Education, we have begun to address this need by developing a technology pathway program in data technology and applications at a large, minority-serving public university. As part of this program, an interdisciplinary team of faculty created a new minor in Applied Computing for Behavioral and Social Sciences. A large number of diverse students are studying behavioral and social sciences, and the ability to model human behaviors and social interactions is a highly valuable skill set in our increasingly data-driven world. Applied Computing students complete a four-course sequence that focuses on data analytics and includes data structures and algorithms, data cleaning and management, SQL, and a culminating project. Our first full cohort of students completed the Applied Computing minor in Spring 2019. To assess the success of the minor, we conduct student surveys and interviews in each course. Here, we focus on survey data from the beginning and end of the first course, given that it served as a particularly important feedback loop to optimize the course and to inform the design and execution of subsequent courses. The data reflect a significant increase in confidence in programming abilities over time, as well as a shift in attitudes about programming that more closely matches those of experts. The data did not show a significant change in mindset over time, such that students maintained a growth mindset across the semester. Finally, with respect to goals, students placed a greater emphasis on data and tech at the end of the semester, highlighting specific career paths such as user experience and human factors. In the future, we plan to administer this same survey to social science students not involved in the minor to serve as a control group and to begin exploring the large dataset obtained from other courses in the minor. We believe that embedding computing education into the social sciences is a promising means of diversifying the technical workforce and filling the need for interdisciplinary computing professionals, as evidenced by high rates of female and underrepresented minority enrollment in our courses, as well as promising shifts in student confidence, attitudes, and career goals as a result of taking Applied Computing courses.

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

University of California, Los Angeles


© 2020 American Society for Engineering Education


Psychology; General Engineering; Electrical Engineering