What's happening on campus

University of Alabama

Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration

Tuscaloosa, Ala.

IT degree program: The Department of Information Systems, Statistics and Management Science offers a major in MIS that includes a required minor in computer science. Enrollment is capped at approximately 300 students per year. Students apply to the program after successfully completing two programming courses in the computer science department and an introduction to systems analysis and design in the MIS program.
Objective: To prepare programmers and analysts for immediate productivity in Fortune 1,000 IT organizations. "By mainstreaming our MIS students with computer science students, we make sure they're getting the strong technical skills they need," says Joanne Hale, assistant professor of management and information systems. Following coursework in structured development methodologies and other core computer science and MIS classes, "we pull all that together in their senior year with 12 hours of project coursework," she adds.
Special features: Students work on real-world projects for corporate clients. Examples include a time-and-attendance system to be implemented in all the North American plants for a major international manufacturer, and a prototype wireless application "to support product customization and choice at the store shelf" for a multinational consumer products company, Hale notes. The department also sponsors the Alabama Information Management Society, a student professional association that offers students regular face-to-face contact with IT managers and executives from major employers.
Collaboration with industry: The MIS Forum, an advisory board that includes such employers as The Home Depot Inc., International Paper Co. and Kimberly-Clark Corp., meets with faculty formally twice a year and informally throughout the year to consult on curriculum development.
Strength: According to Anna Kilinski, who will graduate from the program in December, it's "the hands-on aspect of the curriculum and the dedication of professors."
Weakness: "We put in long hours, and it gets tiresome. But that's what it's like in the real world, and we eventually have to adapt to that anyway," Kilinski says. "So I'm not sure it's a weakness, because in the long run, maybe it will be a benefit."
Southwest Missouri State University (SMSU)
College of Business Administration
Springfield, Mo.
IT degree programs: The Department of Computer Information Systems offers CIS majors with concentrations in applications development, end-user systems and support, or object-oriented client/server systems. A CIS minor is also available.
Objective: To provide students with a solid technical and business foundation in preparation for an IT career, says David Meinert, a professor and student adviser. "We're trying to stress that hands-on programming jobs are short-lived and rare and that students need to move more toward the business analysis area and logical design," he says.
Special features: Among the largest CIS programs in the country, the SMSU program was named by the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) as the outstanding CIS program in the nation. Coursework includes real-world full life cycle development project experience, as well as a co-op and internship program. Approximately 30% of students in the program complete internships before they graduate, Meinert notes. The department also sponsors a student chapter of the AITP.
Collaboration with industry: "We have corporate recruiters here weekly, and they always want to bend our ears about the curriculum," Meinert says. An Annual Computer Day, in which students can meet with representatives from the department's corporate partners, corrals a "Who's Who" of employers, including Anheuser-Busch Cos., FedEx Corp., Caterpillar Inc., Sprint Corp., Hallmark Cards Inc. and Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. "The faculty meets with them to discuss where our curriculum stands, what we are strong on and what we need to improve on," Meinert says.
Strength: "Over time, it has been the technical skills and the practical experience our students graduate with," Meinert says.
Weakness: "Year after year, we're told it's students' communication skills," Meinert says. "But we've had some open discussions with [employers that] respond to our surveys, and we find that's the feedback they're giving all campuses."
Computer Science Programs
California State University at Chico

College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology
Chico, Calif.
IT degree programs: The Department of Computer Science offers a computer science major with three options. The general computer science option is offered for those who plan to take a minor in a complementary area, the math/science is for those who want to emphasize the scientific and technical aspects, and the systems option is focused on systems analysis and software engineering. Separately, the department also offers a CIS major, requiring a minor in business administration, for those who want to focus on applied commercial IT.
Objective: To prepare students to hit the ground running in either a product-development role with a high-tech company or start-up, or a role within a corporate IT organization. "This department is pretty well known for being hands-on," says Anne Keuneke, professor and chairwoman of the computer science department. "We have theoretical courses, but the idea is to dig in with code and make things work."
Special features: The school's proximity to Silicon Valley helps forge close ties with San Francisco Bay area employers. "The dean is really big on bringing [project] work in from outside to keep students current with what's going on out in the world," Keuneke says. Internship programs are available with employers such as IBM, Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Chevron Corp.
Collaboration with industry: An industry board meets on the campus annually to confer with faculty on curriculum direction. "We want to meet the interests of companies," Keuneke explains. Organizations that recruit from the program include NEC Corp., General Electric Co., China Lake Naval Air Warfare Center, WorldCom Inc., Pacific Bell, Lawrence Livermore Labs and Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
Strength: "It's a pretty rigorous program," Keuneke says. "In our first two courses of the first year, the attrition rate by those who flunk out is about 40%."
Weakness: "Not enough faculty," Keuneke says, adding that the college is considering enrollment caps. "We don't want to cut [students] off but will have to make it tighter to get in -- the interest among students is a double-edged sword."
Purdue University
School of Science
West Lafayette, Ind.
IT degree programs: The Department of Computer Sciences offers a straight-up computer science degree heavily focused on technology. The Purdue School of Technology has a number of degree programs more focused on applied IT.
Objective: "To produce computer scientists and engineers -- the kind of people of great interest to the Ciscos and Lucents of the world," says Ahmed Sameh, head of the computer science department. Graduates of the program tend to go to work for high-tech vendors and start-ups rather than corporate IT organizations or management consulting firms.
Special features: "It's well known that we created the first computer science degree program, and for that reason, about 30% of our students come from outside Indiana," Sameh says. A Cooperative Education Program is available to students with a 3.0 grade point average (GPA) in computer science and a 2.8 GPA overall.
Collaboration with industry: "We don't collaborate on curriculum, but we have strong corporate partners, including Intel, Microsoft, Boeing, Motorola and Schlumberger," Sameh says. "They give us feedback because they hire many of our students, and they are very active in sponsoring fellowships for graduate students, scholarships for undergrads and research by faculty. They're also a valuable source for equipment for our instructional labs."
Strength: "Essentially that we have an up-to-date curriculum that encompasses all the different areas of computer science," Sameh says. "And we have active researchers on the faculty who are equally good teachers."
Weakness: "We cannot find enough graduate students who would like to pursue the Ph.D.," Sameh says. "But maybe the [economic downturn] will allow us to keep some of our most promising students to continue for their Ph.D."

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