students working together in the library

Computing IRL exemplifies the vitality and promise of liberal arts approaches by applying academic inquiry to our communities’ most pressing needs.

Open only to first-year students, the Computing IRL ("In Real Life") immersive program consists of a connected set of courses in which students will see how computing techniques and ideas inform and are informed by their interaction with the real world. Students who participate in the program will take a First Year Seminar, an introductory computer science course, and an internship at various organizations that have links to Occidental College and the Los Angeles area.

An example of an internship location is STEAM:CODERS, a non-profit in Pasadena dedicated to bringing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) education to students at underserved K-12 institutions. Interns there will learn about STEAM education, about how technology supports or excludes low-income communities, and about the structure and operation of community non-profits. We will consult with students before placing them with an organization and we hope to match incoming students with more advanced students within each organization. The Computing IRL Immersive Semester exemplifies the vitality and promise of liberal arts approaches by applying academic inquiry to our communities’ most pressing needs.

Other past projects include working with:

  • The Oxy Computer Science Department to build community via online social activities to build community
  • Oxy Athletics teams to track competition results and build social media presence
  • The Oxy Student Success team to build a virtual Oxy quad
  • The Oxy Fellowships Office to redesign their website and build social media presence
  • The Oxy Institute for the Study of Los Angeles to design online exhibits in the digital humanities
  • The Metropolitan Water District to design the Solar Cup website
  • A judicial office campaign to build social media presence and track results
  • La Matematica (an Association for Women in Mathematics publication) to develop ethical review practices and materials
  • STEAM:CODERS to update their curriculum for online teaching
  • Operation Pizzicato to streamline entertainment industry media processing practices
  • Streetscope to develop computer vision techniques for measuring traffic
  • The Garvey School District to support online learning and student emotional well-being


No previous programming experience is required! If you're interested in being part of the Computing IRL Immersive Semester, sign up using the online form linked at the bottom of this page.

Program Overview

The Computing IRL Oxy Immersive Semester consists of 4 linked courses totally 12 units :

  • FYS 11: Social Difference and the Politics of Technology (4 units)
  • COMP 295: Computer Science Internship (4 units)
  • COMP 131: Fundamentals of Computer Science (4 units) 

Students who successfully complete these courses will fulfill both their Fall First Year Seminar (FYS) requirement as well as one of the Core Lab Science requirement.

First-year students at Oxy can take up to 18 units each semester, with an average course load being around 16 units, so Computing IRL participants will be able to register for one additional 4-unit class of their choice during Orientation.


FYS 11: Social Difference and the Politics of Technology

Prof. Brian Bartell
4 units; MWF 11:45-12:40

"Technology" is often thought of as being neutral and at its best providing solutions to problems without human bias. Despite this, contemporary developments in predictive policing and algorithmic racism, to give only two prominent examples, suggest that this is not the case. In Social Difference and the Politics of Technology we will discuss contemporary issues like AI, automation, and environmental technologies, and a longer history of technology dating to plantation slavery and European colonialism. The course will ask students to think about the ways that technological development has never been neutral and has always been connected to histories of race, gender, sexuality, and hierarchical conceptions of what it means to be human, as well as economics and labor, and ecological issues. In doing so we will look at a wide array of texts and media to examine these histories, to imagine worlds otherwise to them, and as a foundation for developing writing skills in order to ethically engage with technological change on an increasingly unequal and unstable planet. 

COMP 295: Computing IRL Internship

Taught by Prof. Chris Cianci
4 units; TR 1:30-2:55pm

​​​​Students will work with LA-based non-profits such as STEAM:CODERS, a Pasadena-based organization that teaches local middle and high school students to program, or the Association for Women in Mathematics, a national organization that promotes women in computation. Students will complete weekly reflection papers and a final presentation describing what they've learned about computation IRL.  Open only to students enrolled in the Computing IRL semester.

COMP 131: Fundamentals of Computer Science

4 units; fulfills the Core Lab Science Requirement
Various Times

Computer science is about the organization of information and the design of processes that use it. This course teaches students to think computationally—how to break processes down into components that can be then fully described—and to acquire other habits necessary for a computer scientist. Students should come out able to write simple but complete programs of their choosing, and should also be able to diagnose problems in unfamiliar programs.

Interested in enrolling in this program?

  • By June 12, complete the interest form linked here.
  • Between June 12-14 we will be in touch with you to let you know if we can offer you a seat in the course.  

Questions?   Contact Prof. Justin Li (


Contact the Core Program
Johnson Hall

Room 115

Edmond Johnson
Director of Advising, Core Program Coordinator, Affiliated Faculty in Music
Office: Johnson Hall 108