There are many different options for combined undergraduate study in art+technology at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). This blog post contains a quick list, accurate, to the best of my knowledge, as of spring 2014. I advise many of the students working in these ways, and I have known and advised students working in all of the ways listed below. (For reference: A “concentration” is four courses; a “minor” is six courses. A standard bachelor’s degree at CMU is about 360 units.)
• The CMU School of Art has internal concentrations in several areas; you can create your own, or select among (A) Painting, Drawing and Printmaking, (B) Sculpture, Installation and Site-Work, (C) Contextual Practice, or (D) the Electronic and Time-Based arts concentration [ETB]. Most Art students with an interest in art+technology are pursuing the ETB concentration in the School of Art. The ETB concentration includes coursework options (all within the School of Art) in topics like interactive art, video and performance, game design, animation, and kinetic sculpture. Incidentally, the School of Art also has required arts-engineering courses for all of its BFA students (such as “EMS2″, or Introduction to the Electronic Media Studio II) which teach programming for the arts, using the Processing, Arduino, and Max/MSP toolkits. EMS2 is required for all Art sophomores, regardless of their internal concentration, but we generally recommend that BCSA and pre-BCSA students take EMS2 in their freshman year.
• CMU’s new IDEATE program offers a half-dozen different interdisciplinary concentrations and minors that cut across the university in lots of ways: Animation and Special Effects, Entrepreneurship for Creative Industries, Game Design, Intelligent Environments, Learning Media, Media Design, Physical Computing, and Sound Design. As concentrations, these are not mutually exclusive with the School of Art’s ETB concentration; you can do both. To reiterate, these programs are also available as minors.
• You can also pursue a Computer Science minor, Robotics minor, Human-Computer Interaction minor, or Language Technologies minor. It is also possible to double-minor, meaning, two minors (or even more); for example, you could have a minor in CS and also a minor in IDEATE/GameDesign.
• The Bachelor of Computer Science and Art, or BCSA, is an integrated double-degree. About 80% of the BCSA students are “internal transfers”, meaning that they transferred into BCSA at the end of their Freshman or Sophomore year. (The other 20% were accepted into BCSA right out of high school.) To transfer into BCSA from the School of Art, you must demonstrate proficiency in Computer Science: by doing well in the first couple of introductory CS courses (namely, 15-112 and 15-122) in your Freshman year. To transfer into BCSA from the School of Computer Science, you should have a portfolio that demonstrates your sensibility in combining art and technology. The BCSA is designed to be completed in 4 years, and requires about 380 units. (I helped co-create the BCSA degree in 2008, and I’m the School of Art’s advisor for its BCSA students.) Students interested in pursuing or applying for the BCSA should contact Dr. Stephanie Murray, Director of the BXA Intercollege Degree Programs office.
• As a BFA student in the School of Art, you could pursue a second major. For example, you could get a second major in Computer Science, a second major in HCI, a second major in Robotics, or many other departments. Please note that the double-major requires about 520 units, and you only get one Degree (in other words, you would earn a “BFA with a second major in Computer Science”).
• It is also possible to pursue a double degree. This means you would earn (for example) a BFA in the School of Art, and a BS in Computer Science. It requires about 560 units and generally takes 4½ or 5 years to complete. (Naturally you can still specify that your Art concentration is ETB, and you might pick up an IDEATE or other concentration/minor along the way).
• It is also possible to pursue a University Student-Defined major (SDF) at CMU. This is a great degree for square-pegs-in-round-holes, and other students who want to achieve something that is currently unachievable with any of the above structures. Students interested in the SDF should contact Dr. Amy Burkert, Vice Provost of Education.
• There are also some little-known “4+1″ accelerated master’s programs (AMP) which would allow you to complete a Master’s degree in a single year. Ordinarily, Master’s degrees require two years, but these AMP degrees work by having some of your undergraduate coursework count towards the graduate degree. For example, it is possible to do a 4+1 with BCSA and the ETC Masters of Entertainment Technology, or a 4+1 with BCSA and the Masters of Tangible Interaction Design (soon to be renamed the Masters of Emerging Media). This list is not exclusive and other combinations exist as well.