SCI’s 3Sixty Program Offers Students New Perspectives in its First Iteration

March 12, 2024

Seven Hackett, a junior majoring in film and media studies, had never coded before stepping into Computing for the Humanities. It ended up being her favorite course out of the three she took this summer.

“[The coding] was probably my favorite because I never did anything with that,” Hackett said. “So now I feel like I have this secret weapon that I can just pull out and be like ‘guys, do you know I know how to code?’ which is so cool.”

Hackett got this opportunity—and the opportunity to take two other courses this past summer—through the 3Sixty Program at the School of Computing and Information (SCI). Starting with its first iteration this year, the program aims to foster interdisciplinary knowledge of Pitt students, particularly those who have been denied access to opportunities due to targeted systemic oppression, discrimination, and exclusion.

“We hope the computer and information sciences fields become more diverse,” Song Shi, a teaching assistant professor who taught a course and reviewed applications for the program, said. “We need programs like this to encourage underrepresented students to participate in computing and information.”

In the program, students participate in a cohort over the summer, completing three courses. Students took Narrative and Technology (ENGLIT 0512), Introduction to Computing for the Humanities (CS 0012), and Comparative Digital Privacies (CMPINF 1205). Tuition scholarships are available from $2,000 up to full tuition for the courses.

“These courses are bridges into topics at the intersection of technology and society that were not encumbered by pre-requisites,” Adam Lee, a professor in the Department of Computer Science and SCI’s executive associate dean, said. “They provide a way for students to develop some programming/data literacy, and approach socio-technical issues from both the computing and humanities perspectives.”

Hackett learned about 3Sixty through a flyer attached to an email. She noticed the flyer said the program was open to all majors and thought she could participate to fulfill her quantitative and formal reasoning and writing intensive general education requirements. She applied to the program through PittFund$Me, the university’s scholarship database. She received the news that she was accepted a few weeks later.

As part of 3Sixty, Hackett took Shi’s Comparative Digital Privacies course for the program, which offers a global perspective on issues surrounding privacy in the digital age. The course looks at Internet laws and policies, data protection, state control, and more, examining case studies across several regions. During the course, students learned about how websites and social media platforms collect data on users through cookies.

“I’m more aware now,” Hackett said. “If you take that class, you become more aware of what you’re doing with your online presence.”

Students in the program also took Narrative and Technology, taught by Christopher “Mav” Maverick, a teaching assistant professor in the English department. Narrative and Technology gives students the fundamentals of how narratives—inside and outside of fiction—are affected by technology.

“In the name, we have a specifically humanities-oriented concept—narrative——and also an SCI-focused one—technology,” Maverick said. “So the name in and of itself basically says ‘this is going to teach you about interdisciplinary thought,’ and I think that’s an important skill to have.”

For Hackett, the course taught her not to focus heavily on what the author may have meant and to think about what she thinks a text means.

“I look at things differently now,” Hackett said. “When I have a story or an article, I don’t necessarily think about what they’re trying to say. I think about what I think it is.”

Hackett encourages other students who are considering the program to apply. She said the smaller courses within 3Sixty give students the opportunity to delve deeper into what subjects they are interested in and make the courses more personal.  Additionally, students can learn new things they might not have otherwise.

“Even though it’s kind of different from my major, I think the things that I learned from those classes can apply now,” Hackett said. “I think, in whole, the program changed my perspective on so many things that I didn’t think I needed to learn but was very useful for everyday life.”