The Focus Area (FA) is a set of 21 semester hours (s.h.) of elective courses taken during the sophomore to senior years that provide undergraduate students in the ISE department with a unique opportunity to acquire advanced education in an area of their choice. FAs are not only intended to spark the interest of students in a specialty, but they can also make a student more attractive to future employers.
An FA must be rigorous, well focused, in-depth, and consistent with a student's career plan. A collection of lower level courses in a number of disparate areas will not satisfy this FA requirement. Consequently, approval of a student's FA by the department is generally required. A Plan of Study form, described in greater detail below, facilitates the process of choosing and obtaining approval for the FA courses.
In order to maintain some technical rigor and depth, FAs must contain at least 9 s.h. of 3000 or higher-level College of Engineering courses. However, this requirement may be waived if the FA consists of an in-depth program in mathematics, computer science, the physical and natural sciences, or business.
For program accreditation reasons, at least 3 s.h. of courses must be mathematics or basic sciences courses (as defined by ABET) in a different area or at a more advanced level than those required in the regular curriculum.
An FA does not need to consist entirely of technical courses. For example, part or all of the UI Technological Entrepreneurship Certificate program can be completed as an FA. If the majority of FA courses come from outside of the College of Engineering, an official UI Minor or UI Certificate program should generally be completed.
Students are urged to integrate their FA with internships or cooperative education experiences they may be taking as part of their undergraduate studies. Furthermore, an FA may be complemented by courses taken as part of the General Education Component (GEC) requirement. If a focus in the humanities or social sciences is desired in an FA, up to 12 s.h. of GEC courses should be used. The remaining balance of FA courses may be used as technical electives or toward a second focus area, consistent with the above FA requirements.
There are two types of FAs:
Standard FAs(S-FA) are programs that are designed and pre-approved by the department. Offered S-FAs are periodically reviewed by the department. Descriptions of each S-FA can be obtained from the departmental web site or office. Each S-FA has a faculty member as a coordinator who can advise a student in more detail. Current S-FAs are:
Big Data Analytics
Computer & Information Systems
Design & Manufacturing
Human Factors & Ergonomics
Tailored FAs (T-FA) are individualized and career specific programs designed by the student and approved by the department.
The Plan of Study facilitates the process of choosing and obtaining approval for the courses for the FA. During the first academic year on campus, all undergraduate students consult with their advisor and begin to develop a tentative Plan of Study. The Plan of Study is further finalized during the third semester. The Sophomore Seminar (third semester) is used to explain FA choices. The Plan of Study:
Identifies the career goal
Identifies the courses to be taken as the 21 s.h. of FA electives
Presents the rationale for how the electives support the career goal; the student should provide any necessary supporting material
Is signed by the student and the advisor; if a student is pursuing a T-FA or deviating from the approved courses for an S-FA, the Plan of Study must also be approved by the department chair
Must be completed in advance of taking any FA courses
Is placed in the student's official file
May be altered at any time during the undergraduate program; any changes must be approved by completing a new Plan of Study