Catholic universities and computer science


#1

I’m currently nearing the end of my sophomore year of high school, and am starting the college search in earnest. Even though I would love to go to a Catholic university, I don’t want to give up a competitive education in my chosen field, computer science. This has been presenting a bit of a problem to me. Does anyone know of a (not just in name) Catholic university with a good computer science program?:confused:


#2

You don't have to limit yourself to a Catholic college to have a great Catholic experience. Many nonreligious colleges have an excellent on-campus Catholic ministry that you can participate in.

(saying this as someone who did just that and loved the campus ministry - it gave me so much more than I had ever experienced in my home church)


#3

I've heard that the Catholic Campus Ministry at Penn State U. (a BIG engineering school), is VERY big and active. If Pennsylvania is anywhere near you...

This was in contrast to where I just graduated from, Virginia Tech (another great engineering school), which has a decent Catholic Campus Ministry, but sadly some evangelical campus programs where much larger.

Peace,
Phil


#4

Be warned: computer science professors tend to be atheists (I have a feeling this is true even at Catholic universities). Not all of them (among others, Donald Knuth, who invented TeX, is Lutheran), but I know a handful of my professors (at a public institution, mind you) are atheist. (Edit: I could be very wrong about the atheistic tendencies in CS. I shouldn't have made such a statement without proof. This is the impression I get however.) I think being in any science field, you're going to be challenged by people who think that having science means you don't need God. Especially with the growth of AI, I think computer scientists are more prone to the belief that, if we can create some sort of life, we mustn't need God at all. If you are aware of the tendency and can argue against it, if only to yourself, you'll be fine. But know that it may cause you to struggle with your faith. (Reasons for Belief: How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith by Scott Hahn is a GREAT apologetics book.)

I attended Truman State University in Kirksville, MO, for a while. I think they have a pretty strong CS program (of course, I wasn't a CS major there, so I can't say this from experience. Their programs are, in general, very strong though, and the CS majors I've known from there are very good) and a very strong Newman community. (However, their LGBT community is also pretty outspoken...) In other words, you can find good Catholic communities at public universities. You might want to find someone you know who is Catholic and attends a public university that you might attend and ask them about their experience, or even better: if you can, schedule a campus visit for a Monday and go on Sunday morning or evening (many Newman Centers have Sunday evening mass) and attend Mass at Newman. You can probably get a good idea of the Catholic community this way.

I attended Catholic school for 13 years but have only attended public universities, and although I have struggled, my faith life is very strong. In sum, don't dismiss public universities. If you attend one, though, just be prepared. Also, know that enough students at Catholic universities are non-Christian. A friend of mine went to a Catholic university and is atheist. You'll be challenged anywhere you go.


#5

[quote="Alex246, post:1, topic:234526"]
Does anyone know of a (not just in name) Catholic university with a good computer science program?:confused:

[/quote]

Sorry, I don't know of any (at least in the United States). If you really want to go to a Catholic school, Notre Dame is probably your best bet. (Its CS program isn't particularly well known but it's probably good enough for undergrad. Its Catholicism has been debated on this forum and I can't comment on it, but you probably aren't going to find a more acceptable Catholic choice.)

[quote="kslat, post:4, topic:234526"]

Be warned: computer science professors tend to be atheists (I have a feeling this is true even at Catholic universities).

[/quote]

I disagree with this. It's true that university professors as a group tend to be more atheistic than most, but Computer Science professors are some of the most religious professors you'll find in the sciences. Essentially, the reason for this is that, despite Computer Science being a scientific discipline, Computer Science researchers culturally resemble engineers more than they resemble scientists. There are strong cultural prejudices that push science professors towards liberalism and atheism (especially since state governments started pushing creationism), but these prejudices affect engineers to a much lesser extent. Political conservatives also tend to be treated better in CS departments than in other departments in science or the humanities.

[quote="kslat, post:4, topic:234526"]

Especially with the growth of AI, I think computer scientists are more prone to the belief that, if we can create some sort of life, we mustn't need God at all.

[/quote]

Although there might be some lone nuts out there who believe it, it would be ridiculous to say that AI is having this effect on CS professors in general. To CS professors, AI is all about statistics, probabilities, datasets, and algorithms. Anyone deep into AI should see it for what it is (another glorified calculator).

[quote="kslat, post:4, topic:234526"]

In other words, you can find good Catholic communities at public universities. You might want to find someone you know who is Catholic and attends a public university that you might attend and ask them about their experience, or even better: if you can, schedule a campus visit for a Monday and go on Sunday morning or evening (many Newman Centers have Sunday evening mass) and attend Mass at Newman. You can probably get a good idea of the Catholic community this way.

[/quote]

This is a good point. For example, the University of Maryland, College Park has a great Newman community and a great CS Program. One problem is that the dorm life at some of these public universities can get wild, and opportunities to live with Catholics don't present themselves early on. A good middle ground might be a secular university with a strong Newman program, strong academics in general, and a culture that encourages studying over partying.


#6

[quote="ack, post:5, topic:234526"]

I disagree with this. It's true that university professors as a group tend to be more atheistic than most, but Computer Science professors are some of the most religious professors you'll find in the sciences.

[/quote]

Please notice that I edited my post to, more or less, retract this statement, saying I didn't have the evidence to support this claim. (Maybe I wasn't clear enough...) It has been my experience, but I can't use my experience to make such a claim. I think I may have my liberal arts professors in mind too much... (I still have known a good handful of CS professors who are atheists.) But yes, I support your disagreement. While I don't disagree with myself, I see how it is perfectly reasonable for you to.

[quote="ack, post:5, topic:234526"]
Although there might be some lone nuts out there who believe it, it would be ridiculous to say that AI is having this effect on CS professors in general. To CS professors, AI is all about statistics, probabilities, datasets, and algorithms. Anyone deep into AI should see it for what it is (another glorified calculator).

[/quote]

Again, you're probably right. And again, this has been my experience. But I'm a biased individual.


#7

Thanks for all the replies! Honestly, it's pretty much what I expected to hear, but there's no sense in not trying:)
I do have a strong interest in multiple tech/engineering schools, and I love the idea of going to mass at one to feel out the community. I'll try that if I get the chance. Thanks again for the input!


#8

I live near Gannon University and it is more than Catholic in name only. The computer science program is popular with local employers at least, I don't know about its national ranking or anything, but I know that people coming out of the program almost always get jobs or grad school placement.

I don't know that Atheist professors would be a problem either way, because even at the engineering school I attended I never really got to know much about my professors beliefs. Good professors in highly technical fields are more interested in you learning what you need to succeed than talking about their personal life views.


#9

Alex: I wish you all the best! You'll be in my prayers. I hope you find a great community at a college that will teach you everything you need to know about CS and more!

[quote="PatrickSebast, post:8, topic:234526"]
I don't know that Atheist professors would be a problem either way, because even at the engineering school I attended I never really got to know much about my professors beliefs. Good professors in highly technical fields are more interested in you learning what you need to succeed than talking about their personal life views.

[/quote]

Not to derail this thread, but you're right: I forget that I'm familiar with some of my professors' personal beliefs because I work for one and his wife and he's outspoken about these things in a more personal environment (like when going out to lunch). I shouldn't have even brought it up. (It's become so normal to me that I forget. Sorry.) (However, it is still a risk of science fields, and how sciency the CS department is varies from school to school.) But he's one of these people who thinks that we'll be able to get AI to do anything. I project this way too far onto other professors.


#10

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