Northeastern University requires all of its computer science majors to take improv — a class in theatre and improvisation, taught by professors in the drama department. The Wall Street Journal says it “forces students to come out of their shells and exercise creative play” before they can get their diplomas. (Although when the class was made mandatory in 2016, “We saw a lot of hysterics and crying,” says Carla E. Brodley, dean of the computer science department.)
So what happens to the computer science majors at Northeastern?
The course requires public speaking, lecturing on such nontechnical topics as family recipes. Students also learn to speak gibberish — ‘butuga dubuka manala phuthusa,’ for instance… One class had students stare into a classmate’s eyes for 60 seconds. If someone laughed, you had to try again…
The class is a way to ‘robot-proof’ computer-science majors, helping them sharpen uniquely human skills, said Joseph E. Aoun, the university president. Empathy, creativity and teamwork help students exercise their competitive advantage over machines in the era of artificial intelligence, according to Mr. Aoun, who wrote a book about it… Other professionals agree that improv can teach the teamwork and communication required of working with others. Many software applications now are built in small teams, a collaboration of engineers, writers and designers.