Friday, June 10, 2016

A new Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering with a major in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Iowa has been approved by the Iowa Board of Regents during its June 9 meeting.

The degree, a joint effort by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering and the Department of Computer Science in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will be offered for the first time, starting in August 2016.  Currently, there are only 11 other U. S. universities which offer accredited degrees in Computer Science and Engineering.  This degree program is the first in the state of Iowa.

“The degree is designed to prepare University of Iowa students to thrive in today’s economy,” Alec Scranton, dean of the UI College of Engineering, said.  “The world is becoming ever more dependent upon computer and information technologies.  The major will provide the simultaneous benefits of a fundamental grounding in computer science with the problem-solving and critical thinking skills associated with an engineering education.”

The Computer Science and Engineering major will require course work in Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mathematics, and Statistics, as well as the Engineering core of courses.  Accreditation will be sought from the Engineering Accreditation Commission and the Computing Accreditation Commission.

“This new major will prepare students for a variety of emerging careers in industry, for example, the Internet of Things, and for further advanced study in the many areas demanding computational and engineering skill sets, Er-Wei Bai, UI professor and departmental executive officer of electrical and computer engineering, said.

"Computer Science is one of the fastest-growing majors in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. We're delighted to partner with our colleagues in Engineering to provide Iowa students with new pathways to computing careers," Alberto Segre, UI professor and chair, Department of Computer Science, and Gerard P. Weeg Faculty Scholar in Informatics, added.

Specific required curricular elements include a capstone project course sequence, extensive laboratory components, a General Education component from the Humanities and Social Sciences, and leadership-team-building experiences beginning in the first semester.

Jon Kuhl, professor of electrical and computer engineering who was integral in developing the proposal for the degree, noted, “the popularity of both the Electrical Engineering with a Computer Engineering track and the Computer Science degrees already offered by the university, ultimately arose from the fact that there is exceptionally strong employer demand for new graduates whose background combines computer science and engineering skills.”

He noted that 62 percent of companies attending the twice-yearly Engineering Career Fair recruit students from the Electrical Engineering with Computer Engineering track or Computer Science majors, far exceeding the number of graduates in this area produced by the UI.  There are typically many more positions available than qualified students to fill them.  In addition, Electrical and Computer Engineering graduates enjoy the highest average starting salary of any major at the UI: $63,212 (2014, latest information).  Computer Science graduates are close behind with an average starting salary of $53,333.  Placement rates for both majors range from 96-100 percent over the past few years.  These trends are continuing, Kuhl added

The UI Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering currently offers a Computer Track with the Electrical Engineering major with about 300 students enrolled, a 100 percent increase in the past five years.  The Computer Science Department, which resides in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, also is experiencing rapid growth with a current undergraduate enrollment of 619.

“It is clear that most students pursuing and Electrical Engineering degree with a Computer Engineering Track have a strong interest in augmenting their engineering skills with software and computer science-related expertise since all students in that track earn a minor in Computer Science and most take multiple elective Computer Science courses.  Similarly, the new major will enable Computer Science students to access upper-level engineering elective courses, “Kuhl added.

Engineering Dean Scranton stressed that the College of Engineering and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences have a long history and culture of collaboration, and worked closely together to develop the proposal.

With the major in place by Fall 2016, the university expects existing students to be better served, more students will be attracted into the Computer Science and Engineering field, and the move will enhance the technical workforce for strategically important Iowa industries including information technology, manufacturing, power industries, insurance, and financial services.

Although all three Regent universities offer a liberal-arts-based computer science degree, the new University of Iowa major differs from degrees at Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa, and is the only one in the state of Iowa that seeks accreditation by both the Engineering Accreditation Council and the Computing Accreditation Council.

“The new major provides the full technical content (both theoretical and applied) of a computer science degree augmented with a strong engineering emphasis,” Bai, who heads the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, said.