Introduction to Cognitive Science professor, Bob Schroer (middle), poses with students fromt he first iteration of the class.
Four departments offer UMD's first Cognitive Science Program
One of UMD’s newest interdisciplinary programs is providing students with the opportunity to sit down and think… about thinking.
A joint effort of the computer science, philosophy, psychology, and linguistics departments, the Cognitive Science minor is a unique look into the thought process, both natural and artificial.
Philosophy Professor Bob Schroer was there at the beginning of the process in 2012. “The first meeting went very well — we went through and picked classes that already existed and would work within the shell of a Cognitive Science minor. After that, we went over what the introductory course should include, and by the end of the day, we had a new minor ready to be proposed."
Professor Schroer was also chosen to teach the ‘Introduction to Cognitive Science’ course, which is being held for the first time this semester. “At first,” he said, “I was worried that the class would be flooded by people from one discipline or another: a vast majority of philosophers, or computer scientists. I was pleasantly surprised to find that each department is well represented.”
Part of what makes his students so eager, Schroer thinks, is that they are a “largely self-selected group." The reasons that students chose the class are as unique as the students themselves.
Tressa Lowry found the program to be just what she needed. Her areas of interest meant she would need to earn a double major in psychology and biology with a minor in math. It also meant a fifth year or more as an undergrad. Last semester, she saw a poster for the Cognitive Science minor. "It was my answer, right there. I could study all the things I was interested in at the same time."
Clint Glenn, a freshman philosophy major, discovered the course through his advisor, Professor Eve Browning. “I was already interested in topics like where are robotics going to go. All of the fields interest me, and I really like the program so far.”
Garrett Blythe, a senior in the computer science department, came across the program while looking online for a minor to declare. "I'm interested in Artificial Intelligence and working with computers. Cognitive Science struck me as something I would like to work in for the rest of my life,” Blythe asserted.
Camren Hopkins, a philosophy major who worked in a scientific lab after high school, has aspirations in the field of neuroscience. He said he feels at home in the course. “Intro to Cognitive Science is interesting because it covers topics that would fit into a science class, but it also allows for questions and debate, like a philosophy class.”
Professor Schroer set out to foster an environment open to discussion. “I was initially concerned about the intro class," he said. "It touches on a lot of different, complex topics, and I feared that students would get overwhelmed.” Instead, he has been surprised by how well everyone has been following along. “There is so much conversation in class — I was stunned by the questions, follow up questions, and the quality of both.”
For more information, view the Cognitive Science minor's page.
Story by Zach Lunderberg. February, 2014.