Six years after eliminating a computer science degree, Fort Lewis College is adding a computer engineering degree to its offerings.
“I’m really excited, and I think it will be in high demand early on,” Provost Barbara Morris told the Board of Trustees at its meeting last week. “Every time I’m at a social or chamber (Durango Chamber of Commerce) event, I’m asked, ‘When are you getting a computer degree?’ Now I can say we are.”
The board voted unanimously to approve the degree, which will be housed in the Physics and Engineering Department and will be accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission (of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology), she said. It will be offered beginning fall 2017.
“This is a fast-paced type of degree,” Morris said, “and I have to thank Dr. Don Rabern from the department for his diligence and thoroughness in creating it. He spent a lot of time gaining input from the community.”
The technology businesses in the area gave Rabern clear direction on what they need, he said.
“They are seeking technical depth, programming knowledge, the ability to integrate software into hardware and the development of embedded systems,” he said. “Our students need to see what every computer engineering student across the country sees; the degree is very specific.”
Rabern analyzed the number of students who would be interested in the program by working with the admissions office. Based on the number of “hits” on the ACT test and those who checked the ACT computer science category, the estimate is that the likely student population would reach 100 to 150 within four years.
The degree will require the development of 11 new engineering and two new math courses, and three new tenure-track professor positions have been pre-approved. They will be recruited in a phased fashion, coming on board in 2018, 2019 and 2020 as the first cohort progresses through the degree. The degree path will pay for itself when 80 to 100 students are enrolled in the major, Rabern said.
“What’s unique is that our faculty wanted all the students to go through our gen ed (general education) program, even though there’s an exclusion from the state where engineering students don’t have to go through the GT Pathways (guaranteed transfer general education courses),” Morris said.” But our engineering professors thought it was important for the students to have the courses.”
The degree requirements are significantly different than the previous computer science degree.
“In 2010, computer science (information technologies) was housed in the School of Business (Administration),” Morris said, “and when we had the reduction in operating budget, we found while students originally indicated interest, the attrition was very high. There were concerns the program had become out-of-date, that it was no longer high quality and rigorous.”
The board also voted to approve eliminating the student-constructed major from the college’s offerings. No students are currently working on a self-designed major, said Mitch Davis, spokesman for the college.
“There’s no coordination or institutional oversight,” Morris said in making the recommendation to the board, “and there’s no ability to assess the rigor of the major. Other institutions, mainly private, have them, but they have a robust process, a robust culture around them.”
Faculty representative to the board Justin McBrayer said he was sorry to see the degree go away.
“I had a student-constructed major, and I think a liberal arts college should have one,” he said. “But in this case, there’s no faculty or administrative leadership to do it.”