Utah Valley University computer science students are breathing easier as a new Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering degree will be available beginning this fall semester.
“From what I understand about the industry is that they’re hiring a lot in the science and engineering fields,” said 32-year-old Greg Hodgson, computer science student. “I think it’s to everybody’s benefit to expand the program. I’m just a firm believer that everyone should pursue what they really want to do.”
Recently approved on May 18, 2012, by the Utah State Board of Regents, the UVU College of Technology and Computing worked for seven years to obtain the degree name change to a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering. Previously, UVU only offered a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with an emphasis in Computer Engineering.
“I think right now, this is a major turn for the Board of Regents to let computer engineering come here to UVU,” said Kirk Love, associate professor and department chair of UVU Computer and Networking Sciences. “This is the first time the Board of Regents has allowed, without an act of legislation, another institution to have the degree ‘computer engineering,’ aside from Utah State University and the University of Utah. Those are good schools, they produce good students, but the demand is more general.”
According to the Utah Occupational Projections 2008-2018 report by the Utah Department of Workforce Services, 250 annual openings are projected in Utah for jobs in the computer engineering industry, telling of the current high-market demand and in the years ahead.
In 2011, the Computer Science department at UVU conducted a survey within the department and found that with 93 percent confidence, students with the emphasis in computer engineering would prefer a full computer engineering degree if made available.
Student demand at UVU was also voiced in 2005, when a campus petition signed by students strongly favored implementation of a computer engineering degree.
Some UVU computer science graduates have dealt with employment verification issues with their degrees, typically with government agencies seeking computer engineers. With the former emphasis offering, graduates were prompted into an exception process, succumbing to several months of verification of their degree before being employed.
“I know that certain government jobs require an actual computer engineering degree,” said 37-year-old Greg Christensen, a computer engineering student. “Most of the employers here don’t have a requirement, so I didn’t feel that it would cause any problem getting a job in the local area. But if I were to travel back east or get a government contract, the name might come into play.”
Another concern the Computer Science department found with the former emphasis in computer engineering was the lack of student intention to complete the program as it read on their diploma.
“The students’ anticipation is, by the time I graduate, if I take these hard engineering courses, my diploma will still say computer science,” said Dr. Abraham Teng, associate dean of the College of Technology and Computing. “We have, say, like a hundred students, declare the computer engineering emphasis as their major, but we usually only graduate five a year. By making this a separate degree, we anticipate more students will stay in computer engineering and graduate with a computer engineering degree.”
As requested by administrative officials in May 2011, Dr. Shahram Latifi, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers fellow, conducted an evaluation of the UVU engineering programs to determine the program’s readiness as a full Bachelor of Science degree.
“There’s a model curriculum put out by professional societies Association for Computing Machinery and IEEE,” Dr. Teng said. “Those are two professional institutions that have a model curriculum for computer engineering, so we model after that.”
In the review, Dr. Latifi reported, “The computer engineering discipline appears to be at the appropriate level to be designated as a full-fledge program offering a B.S. degree in computer engineering.”
“There’s some minor tweaking we have to do,” Dr. Teng said. “Dr. Latifi said the program was up to the standard with some minor exceptions like our upper-division engineering math courses and he also mentioned our facilities are ok. The concern he had was that we needed to hire one more faculty member.”
In addition to the degree name change, the Computer Science department will also welcome Dr. Reza Kamali-Sarvestani as a new full-time tenure track faculty member this August.
Dr. Kamali-Sarvestani is currently an assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering at Rowan University in New Jersey.
By Mallory Black
Assistant News Editor