Information for Prospective Faculty
This page covers some general information about the CS curriculum, teaching, and scholarship at Grinnell College. Our FAQ answers questions we often hear from candidates. We hope this information helps you to consider what you can bring to our institution, but if you’d like to know more about what sets Grinnell apart from our peers you might also want to visit the Why Grinnell? page.
The CS Curriculum
The Computer Science Major requires eight courses, in addition to a math requirement. That number, while small, is sufficient for us to cover a broad range of subjects in computer science. The curriculum diagram below gives an overview of the major:
The entry point the major is our introductory sequence:
- CSC 151: Functional Problem Solving (current course website)
- CSC 161: Imperative Problem Solving (current course website)
- CSC 207: Object-Oriented Problem Solving, Data Structures, and Algorithms (current course website)
These courses introduce students to three different problem solving paradigms: functional (using the Racket programming language), imperative (using the C programming language), and object-oriented (using the Java programming language).
These and many other CS courses are usually taught in a workshop style; students spend a significant amount of their in-class time working through exercises with partners or in small groups. The department has a long history of sharing course materials, especially for these introductory courses, so you are not stuck designing a full workshop-style course from the ground up.
After the introductory sequence, students take five additional courses, broken into four categories.
Systems (4 credits)
Students must take one four-credit systems course, although we recommend that our students take both if at all possible:
- CSC 211: Computer Organization and Architecture (recent course website)
- CSC 213: Operating Systems and Parallel Algorithms (current course website)
Theory (8 credits)
- CSC 301: Analysis of Algorithms (recent course website)
- CSC 341: Automata, Formal Languages, and Computational Complexity (recent course website)
Software Development (4 credits)
- CSC 324: Software Design and Development (current course website)
Electives (4 credits)
The CS major requires four credits of elective coursework. For students who choose to take both CSC 211 and CSC 213, one can count as an elective course. Faculty typically have the opportunity to teach an elective course in alternating years, which will generally satisfy the elective requirement for the major.
Some example electives include:
- CSC 261: Artificial Intelligence (Eliott and Weinman, recent course website)
- CSC 262: Computer Vision (Weinman, current course website)
- CSC 395: Special Topic: Human-Centered Programming (Osera, recent course website)
- CSC 395: Special Topic: Network and Matrix Computations (Eikmeier, recent course website)
- CSC 395: Special Topic: Advanced Operating Systems (Curtsinger, recent course website)
- CSC 395: Special Topic: Introduction to Reinforcement Learning and Multi-Agent Systems (Eliott, recent course website)
We have generally shifted away from teaching the two-credit electives on the diagram above in favor of full four-credit courses. Special topics courses are relatively easy to create at Grinnell College, and can later be regularized to a unique course number if they are going to be offered multiple times. We particularly appreciate new faculty who want to create new elective courses to expand the variety of courses available to our students.
Faculty at Grinnell College teach a load of five courses each year. However, some CS courses with a significant integrated lab are credited as 1.5 courses. These classes include CSC 211: Computer Organization and Architecture, CSC 213: Operating Systems and Parallel Algorithms, and CSC 324: Software Design and Development.
We try to ensure faculty teach a limited number of unique courses in a given semester and year to cut down on preparation time, especially in a semester when a faculty member is teaching a 3-course load. Our current courses page shows that most members of the department are teaching just two different courses, and we make an extra effort to ensure new faculty have a manageable teaching schedule. New tenure-track faculty teach a reduced load of four courses in their first year to allow some additional time to adjust to teaching at Grinnell.
Tutorial and Advising
All tenure-track faculty will occasionally teach a section of Tutorial as one of their five courses. Tutorial is the only required course at Grinnell, and all new students take it in their first semester. Tutorial can be any topic the faculty member chooses; the goal of the course is to help students develop their critical-thinking and communication skills, particularly writing, oral presentation, and discussion. The students in your tutorial section become your academic advisees until they declare a major in their fourth semester. New tenure-track faculty generally teach a section of tutorial in their third year. You can read more about Tutorial and see a list of recent Tutorial topics on the College’s First-Year Tutorial page.
Students who declare a CS major have a faculty advisor in the department; new tenure-track faculty generally do not take advisees, but advising will become a larger part of your responsibilities as a faculty member. You can read a bit more about Grinnell’s individually-advised curriculum on the College’s Academic Planning page. As a quick summary, students at Grinnell do not have general-education requirements. Instead, they select courses in close consulatation with their faculty advisor; you will play a role in helping students design a broad curriculum across the liberal arts.
Faculty at Grinnell College are expected to be productive scholars. With that expectation, the college also provides support for faculty scholarship:
- Startup Funds
- New tenure-track hires will negotiate a startup package with the Dean after being offered a position. Current faculty are happy to share information about their specific startup packages. Generally it seemes that new faculty have been able to get funding for everything they need to start their reserach program at Grinnell.
- Faculty Development Funds
- All faculty receive $3,000 each year to support their research and teaching. Most faculty use this money for travel to conferences, but this funding can be used to pay hourly research assistants, purchase books, and more.
- Summer Student Funding (MAPs)
- The College provides funding for summer research students, as well as an associated stipend for the faculty who supervise that research (faculty are on 9-month contracts). Generally, the college has agreed to fund up to four students for each faculty member, but some CS faculty have supported larger groups with College-provided funding. There is far more demand for summer research positions than we can possibly meet, so the department always appreciates faculty who will supervise summer research. However, this not required.
- Grants Office
- Grinnell College has an excellent Grants Office to help faculty apply for government grants and other external funding programs. Faculty are not required to have grants, but this office supports faculty in preparing proposals if you have work that requires external funding.
Research is necessarily going to be different for every faculty member, and the CS department is open to broad interpretations of what constitutes scholarly work. You may find it useful to review our expectations for faculty scholarship.