From a philosophy major to a Master’s in Computer Science

December 20, 2017

A background in philosophy may not sound like a typical transition into a career in computer science. For Dan Daskivich, that was his ideal path—and it was one he was able to pursue through the College of Computer and Information Science’s (CCIS) Align program, through which he’s currently completing a Master’s in Computer Science with a program tailored to his unique skills and interests.

CCIS’ Align program is designed to give students with a background outside of computer science an entry into the CS field. The Align Master’s in Computer Science brings students up to speed with a year of rigorous courses that provide an introduction to computer science, after which students go on to complete a year of master’s-level course work. While enrolled in the program they complete a six- to eight-month co-op, working on a project with one of Northeastern’s partner employers. Align has campuses in Boston, Seattle, Charlotte, and Silicon Valley.

Daskivich earned his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy before coming to Northeastern as an employee working in the External Events and Conference Programs office. In this position, he coordinated events for outside organizations wishing to use Northeastern’s campus for their programming. While working in this role he had the chance to write software to run these operations, which helped him realize that computer science could be a rewarding career that would fit him well.

After discovering an interest in writing software “I was looking to get into computer science”, Daskivich explains, and he took several courses in computer science through Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies. Once the Align program expanded to Boston from its initial location in Seattle, he jumped at the chance to enroll.

Daskivich was looking for a program that would allow him to leverage the skills his philosophy degree had instilled. For his degree, he had taken classes in logic, which was directly related to his current work in computer science, he explains—in computer science, “there’s the critical thinking skills of philosophy—argumentation, thinking about how we think and what is knowledge. There’s a lot of philosophical foundations to AI (artificial intelligence),” which is one of the areas of computer science he’s currently exploring.

Daskivich has so far found the program to be an ideal fit for his background and interests. “It was organized very well,” he says of the first year of the program, which gives students a background in computer science to prepare them for master’s-level work. “They start you off at a place where they consider where you’re coming from and bring you up to speed very quickly and effectively, which was very impressive to me. Finishing up the first year and going into the rest of the master’s classes, I was very well prepared.”

“The professors,” he adds, “have been absolutely wonderful. Very engaged, very committed, very invested in your learning and success. They put in the time and the effort to make sure you’re learning.”

Asked what kind of student will thrive in Align, Daskivich points out that he has met people with a wide range of backgrounds. “In my own cohort,” he says, “there was another student who had studied philosophy, some engineers, English majors—lots of diversity. We all, as a cohort, when we were studying together, seemed to work well and all bring our different strengths.”

“This program was tailor-made for students like myself,” Daskivich says. “For years, I had wanted a program like this to exist and it didn’t exist anywhere. And Northeastern invented it.”