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 ("Digital Worldmaking"), an introductory computer science course (COMP 131 or COMP 146), and an internship at various organizations that have links to Occidental College and the Los Angeles area (COMP 295).

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.

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 25: Writing Machines: Machine-writing from Frankenstein to ChatGPT (4 units)
  • COMP 295: Computer Science Internship (4 units)
  • COMP 131: Fundamentals of Computer Science (4 units) or COMP 146: Statistics (4 units)

Students who successfully complete these courses will fulfill both their Fall First Year Seminar (FYS) requirement as well as one additional Core requirement. (COMP 131 fulfills the Core Lab Science requirement, while COMP 146 fulfill the Core Math/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 25: Writing Machines: Machine-writing from Frankenstein to ChatGPT

Prof. David Guignion
4 units; MWF 12:50-1:45

Description:  This course offers students an introduction to university writing and research by exploring the perennial conflict between humans and machines. Surveying topics in literature, technology studies, and digital media studies, the course will furnish students an eclectic array of writing strategies and approaches. With machine-learning in the background, and the promise of the perfectibility of university writing embodied in ChatGPT, students will wrestle with writing as both a mode of artistic expression and a mechanical procedure to relay information. Students will then develop the critical tools to be effective writers while learning about the ideological interest in clear, direct, and simple writing in our highly connected, capitalist world. They will learn the foundations of university writing and research as well as proper syntactical methods, key components to argumentation, and how to assess the merits and relevance of academic sources. Open only to first year frosh.

COMP 295: Computing IRL Internship

Taught by Prof. Kathryn Leonard
4 units; Meeting Time TBD

​​​​ Description:  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

Taught by various Computer Science faculty members
4 units; fulfills the Core Lab Science Requirement

Choose one of the following options:

  1. MWF 9:35-10:30am, with additional lab time: Thursday 8:30-11:25am or Thursday 1:30-4:25pm
  2. MWF 10:40-11:35am, with additional lab time: Thursday 8:30-11:25am or Thursday 1:30-4:25pm
  3. MWF 1:55-2:50pm, with additional lab time: Tuesday 8:30-11:25am or Tuesday 1:30-4:25pm

​​​​ Description:  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.

COMP 146: Statistics

Taught by various Computer Science faculty members
4 units; fulfills one of the Core Math/Science requirements

Choose one of the following options:

  1. MWF 10:40-11:35am, with additional lab time: Thursday 1:30-2:55pm or Thursday 3:05-4:30pm
  2. MWF 1:55-2:50pm, with additional lab time: Tuesday 1:30-2:55pm or Tuesday 3:05-4:30pm

​​​​ Description:  Comprehensive study of measures of central tendency, variation, probability, the normal distribution, sampling, estimation, confidence intervals, and hypothesis testing. Introduction to use of technology in statistics. Real-life problems are used to illustrate methods. Weekly lab.

Interested in enrolling in this program?

  • By June 15, complete the interest form linked here.
  • Between June 16-19, we will be in touch with you to let you know if we can offer you a seat in the course.  

Questions?   Contact Prof. Leonard at