The Fletcher Jones Scholar in Computation: Creating Space for Computational Skills at Scripps

Madison Yardumian ’21

Scripps College recently received a sizable one million dollar donation from both The Fletcher Jones Foundation and the Sidney J. Weinberg Jr. Foundations, adding up to a net donation of two million dollars. These generous contributions will serve to establish The Fletcher Jones Scholar in Computation position at Scripps College.
In essence, this money will go towards hiring The Fletcher Jones Scholar in Computation and enabling the selected candidate to design and teach courses that center around the teaching of computational skills, and putting these skills to use in interdisciplinary contexts. This position is hoped to further extend Scripps’ interdisciplinary mission to better include STEM topics.
While the actual field of study of The Fletcher Jones Scholar has not been pre-determined, this person is expected to an expert in their own field in addition to having the computational, programming, and analytical skills necessary to spearhead this new programming.
The namesakes of the donating foundations have vested interest in cultivating computational skills: Fletcher R. Jones was the co-founder of Computer Sciences Corporation during his lifetime, and Sidney J. Weinberg Jr. was the senior director of Goldman Sachs.
The donation made through the Sidney J. Weinberg, Jr. Foundation is attributed to Betsy Weinberg Smith, a former Scripps Trustee and alumna from the Class of 1974. Smith is currently the president and chief executive of the Central Park Conservancy in New York. Prior to holding this position, she was assistant commissioner of the New York City Parks and Recreation Department.
The projected start date of the scholar program is Fall 2019; the sooner the program begins the more of a potential impact it can have on current Scripps students.
Announcements on the Scripps College official website denote the ways in which these courses will make Scripps students better interdisciplinary thinkers and more well-equipped to enter an ever-changing workforce where computational skills are undoubtedly of value.
It is worthwhile to stress the importance of having courses that promote computational literacy at a historically women’s college. There are not many Scripps-specific STEM resources: Scripps has a relatively young math department, a science program made up of shared resources, and a complete lack of both computer science courses and an on-campus computer science major. Bearing this context in mind, The Fletcher Jones Scholar position and programming will allow Scripps to begin building well-funded STEM resources specifically tailored to its own students.
Given the lack of female representation in STEM fields, giving Scripps students the opportunity to learn computational skills in the supportive environment expected in Scripps courses will hopefully better serve current and future STEM majors at Scripps. Furthermore, perhaps the presence of such courses alone will encourage STEM majors and non-majors alike to engage more readily with computational skills and defy expectations for what skill sets women and other gender minorities can and should have.