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Milstein Program in Technology and Humanity selects first students

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Jeff Tyson

The first cohort chosen for the new Milstein Program in Technology and Humanity will begin as first-year students at Cornell this fall.

“One passion that I have in particular is how we might use technology to improve the quality of education on a global scale,” said Catie Rencricca ’22, a Milstein fellow from New York City. “I love both humanities and STEM subjects, although in the past, I have often viewed them as separate areas of interest. Within the last year or so, I realized that there is an incredible amount of unexplored territory surrounding how humanities and technology might improve each other.”

Rencricca is one of 14 students in the first cohort for the program, launched in October with a $20 million gift from the Milstein Family Foundation. The program is a collaboration between the College of Arts and Sciences and Cornell Tech, and the first undergraduate link between the Ithaca and Roosevelt Island campuses.

The program will offer a multidisciplinary curriculum to a cohort of 100 students; another 11 first-year students will be named in spring 2019. In subsequent years, 25 students from each incoming class will be accepted.

The first students selected for the program have interests including computer science, linguistics, philosophy and biology. Rencricca is thinking of majoring in philosophy as well as computer science.

“I think that the ethical implications of technology have been largely ignored (looking at you, Facebook),” Rencricca said.

Nathaniel Watson ’22 is interested in programming but also is passionate about foreign language and culture.

“The main thing that intrigues me is the emphasis on the interdisciplinary potential of computer science, and how technology would mesh with seemingly disparate fields of study,” said Watson, who is from Cleveland. “I will simultaneously be able to explore new interests in humanities and gain a solid technological foundation.”

Said Amy Villarejo, faculty director of the Milstein Program and professor of performing and media arts: “This inaugural group of students is just what we hoped for: They are among the top of the applicant pool in terms of their credentials and preparation. Their academic and extracurricular interests are diverse and inspiring: from linguists to musicians to coders, they race bicycles and predict elections and travel widely. We can’t wait to welcome them to Ithaca in August.”

Students in the program will select an Arts and Sciences major and have access to a specialized curriculum to help them gain proficiency in computer science during the school year in Ithaca, and spend two summers together in New York City at Cornell Tech.

At Cornell, that curriculum will include access to some already-developed courses such as Thinking Media in the music department and Data Science for All in the computer science/engineering/statistical science departments. Also included will be four or five new courses developed specifically for the Milstein program, including a capstone course.

At Cornell Tech, the Milstein curriculum will include a six-week summer session featuring courses in algebra, data analysis, functional programming, statistics, critical theory and information science or human-computer interaction.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.


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