Career Watch

Q&A

Chris Stephenson, executive director of the Computer Science Teachers Association, discusses hooking students on IT careers early.

You say high school is the best time to grab students interest in IT careers. How should the K-12 curriculum change to do that? Students and their parents have many misconceptions about the field, and it is essential that we let them know that there are job opportunities and that these jobs are important and connect to things that students care about in the real world. The high school curriculum needs to reflect the true richness of computing. Too many high school courses are either applications courses (how to use specific pieces of software) or programming courses (learning Java syntax). A comprehensive computing curriculum includes a variety of age-appropriate courses that teach the underlying scientific concepts of computing while helping students understand that there are many kinds of com­puting -- artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, robotics -- all of which can help solve real problems.

Do we have the teachers we need for improved high school instruction? Right now, we have a critical shortage. The primary problem is that teacher certification requirements in most states are a complete mess. Usually, they require CS teachers to be certified in some other area altogether. And because computing is not a core course, even the best CS teachers cannot be considered highly qualified under No Child Left Behind. We have also found that very few programs are available to train future CS teachers.

What else is the CSTA doing to increase interest in the field? CSTA provides a solid curriculum framework and resources to support its implementation. We work in partnership with colleges and universities to offer top-notch professional development opportunities to help teachers develop both their technical and teaching skills, and we conduct research on issues such as teacher certification and what is currently taught in computing classrooms. Perhaps most importantly, we also help administrators and policymakers understand that there is a direct link between supporting computer science education in K-12 and maintaining our innovative and competitive edge in the global marketplace. Other countries have figured this out, and we have a lot of catching up to do.

Business Meets Academia

How U.S. colleges and universities are working with the private sector to develop next-generation IT leaders

School: Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh

Does it have an IT advisory council? No, but it has a board of visitors that provides periodic input on the curriculum.

IT executive feedback that has helped amend the curriculum: Pittsburgh-area CIOs and IT directors have requested more course content on legal and regulatory issues, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. While the university hasnt created any specific regulatory or legal courses, last fall it added content to existing undergraduate coursework, and it plans to introduce additional content on the graduate level this fall.

Postgraduate programs offered: Masters degrees in MIS and bioengineering; a dual-degree MBA/masters of science in engineering

Number of masters degrees awarded in spring 2007: 15

Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh

Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh At the masters level, the university is increasingly emphasizing the development of IT leadership skills. Brian Butler, associate professor of information systems and MIS group coordinator, says the goal is to make degree candidates consider challenges such as how they would go about creating and setting security policies or how to work best with the legal department.

Business concerns are getting more attention even at the undergraduate level, where Pitts core IS courses identify processes aimed at achieving business improvement. What were trying to give [students] is a perspective of what to fix in the organization before theyre thinking about technological issues, says Enrique Mu, director of the MIS program.

In focus groups held at Pitt since last winter, CIOs have said that they are seeking job candidates who can manage change through their communications and listening skills, says Terri Gregos, assistant dean and director of career services.

-- Thomas Hoffman

Earn a Ph.D. in PM

Online school Capella University has added project management specializations to both its Ph.D. in organization and management and its Ph.D. in information technology degree programs. According to the Project Management Institute, that brings the number of doctoral programs in PM available in the world to just 12. The PMI reports, though, that 284 other degree programs in PM were offered in 2006.

Page compiled by Jamie Eckle.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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