Concordia College gives computer science program a second look

In 2011, the same year that the world lost Steve Jobs, Concordia College nixed their Computer Science program.

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“It was largely because of falling enrollments,” says Dr. Brewer Doran, the new Dean of the Offutt School of Business. She shrugged before adding, matter-of-factly, “…and probably because we [Concordia] were not keeping up with the times.”

The decision sent ripples of frustration into Concordia’s student body, with many questioning the college’s relevance in an increasingly tech-centered world. Preston Johnson, a senior at the time, vented his thoughts in an editorial he wrote for the school paper, the Concordian.

“The elimination of the computer science program not only questions the future of the students currently enrolled in a computer science major or minor; it’s a sign that our campus has lost a bit of its footing as a technologically-minded institution,” Johnson wrote.

Now, things are shifting once again. With the recent addition of Dean Doran to the administration, efforts are underway to bring the computer science program, or something like it, back to the table. (Currently, this is what Concordia offers in the realm of computer science.)

Concordia College President, Dr. William Craft, said he is excited about the early development although he said, “we are quite a ways form the formal review and approval stages that any new program must go through.”

“I am excited about the early work that’s being done in math, science, and business on this prospective program,” he said. “But the program is still in fairly early development.”

Dean Doran is hopeful that the program will be ready as early as Fall of 2016.

“We hope to have the curriculum by January, so that we could start recruiting in the fall (of 2016),” she said. “If we bring it back, and we will, it needs to be a 21st century computer science program.”

This means, Doran said, that the program will be intensely project-oriented and correlate directly with the needs of local tech businesses. Already, she has visited Microsoft and other local tech companies to go over preliminary drafts of the curriculum. Curriculum is currently being developed by faculty in math, sciences and business, lead by Dr. Eric Eliason, Dean of the College.

“The number one piece for me is that when we come back with a technology degree, that we have the blessing of the high-tech community in what we’re doing,” she said. “We have such a strong tech community here. It would be just wrong not to involve them in those discussions [about curriculum].”

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Two developers at a hackathon held at Myriad Mobile, a local mobile app development company. Photo by Dan Francis.

The new computer science program will build off the existing management information system (MIS) program within the business school, Doran said. It will have two initial tracks; one focusing on analytics, and the other in “pure computer science,” she said.

“Once that degree is up and running, it will allow us to re-tool MIS. So that it becomes more of a technology leadership program,” Doran said.

The decision to bring the program back comes after increasing demand from both students and employers, she said.

“You look at how tight the job market is and clearly there is demand for good strong graduates, so that piece is taken care of,” she said. “Students come in wanting to do something with computers. What our job is is to create the right the degree that fits for Concordia, that fits for our students, and that fits for our employers.”

 

Photos courtesy of Dan Francis and Concordia College.

Marisa Jackels

Marisa Jackels

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