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What I Would Like To See At WSU-CS

Ok, here's the thing. I am not bashing the Computer Science Department at WSU. In fact, I think what the current Department Chair is doing now is wonderful. He has completely turned the entire department around. However, he still has a great deal of work to do, before the department is really, trully, proactive. Here's how I would define a proactive department.

First, we need some serious marketing and advertising afoot. The department is losing students. Each year, the number of students entering the CS department is less than the year before. And from what I hear, we are the only undergraduate school in the state where this is happening. Now, granted, there may be some demographics at play. WSU is a commuter school, however, I can't help but wonder if it goes further than that. I would imagine that we would want to focus strongly on recruiting high school students from around the area, and I would think that clubs, organizations and incentives are what would drive them here (aside from whether or not they'll make millions with their degree when they graduate).

Second, faculty/student involvement only exists on a classroom level. It just doesn't extend beyond that. If it does, it is because students want that interaction, and make it happen. For example, the last ACM Chair held activities that got the faculty involved. It was not the other way around. The only activities that the faculty try to put on, are the programming contests, and it is because their is pressure at a regional level. If they held these contests because they enjoyed it, students would know about it every semester. Sadly, the last contest only brought in two people, and that is because the contest "judges"- two professors, talked about it in their classes. There were no flyers, and only about two weeks notice.

Thirdly, the department is not run very democratic. I say this in the kindest way, and very politically. First, why is there a seperate login in the computer science labs for the students aside from the normal school login? I can see strays wandering in, and using the computer lab, but what is the concern? The reason this is such an issue, is the lab aides are constantly bombared with "What's my login" or "I forgot my password" or "I can't login at all". If they would just stay with the rest of the school, I would imagine that those questions would be very minimal. Second, where is the student involvement at all? Using Utah State as an example, many students, who are not lab aides- just regular students, administer their own server using the school network. There are wikis, blogs, home pages, irc servers/channels, email servers, and much more that are not owned by the school. Again, I see the security concern, but if we monitor wireless activity and have protocols in place, we most certainly can implement the same protocols on student servers. But it extends beyond just allowing student administration to servers. It extends to clubs and organizations, and the ability for students to "get involved" with the departement on a personal level.

Okay. There are the generalities, but what about the technicalities?

  • High School and even Junior High School marketing and involvment. Rather than just wSU students at programming contests, why not high school students with large prizes held evey semester.
  • IRC network. We have more than enough bandwidth, and it would get students involved with other students, and even faculty. Setting up IRC servers is easy, and maintaining them just as easy.
  • Student administration with pages. This goes to the main CS site, as well as other sites too. Including, but not limited to, the Orangeforum, the ACM site, group, club and other organization sites, etc.
  • Faculty involvement outside of the classroom. This means attending local group meetings, and advertising them in class. This means creating activities, or notifying them of local news events, and providing a way to get everyone involved. The most successful teachers are always the most involved in their students lives.
  • Unix, Linux, BSD, Solaris, AIX, HPUX, etc. Why are there absolutely no classes teaching these absolutely powerful operating systems? Why do we have a very expensive Sun Solaris lab that never gets used? In fact, all classes need to be reworked, with this area completely overhauled.

Again, I am not bashing the CS deparment, nor do I hate it. I just see some areas of improvement that I don't think are being looked at. Have I discussed this with the faculty? To a degree, yes, I have. However, I do plan on discussing it more with a few other faculty members. My involvement with a couple LUGs will bring it out of the woodwork more than anything.

Laslty, I just want to say, that I think the department, for the most part, is doing an okay job, with the Department Chair, doing a phenomenal job. Unforunately, I believe the focus as a department is either lost or off-sight. Either way, though, I enjoy many of the teachers there, and have enjoyed many classes. Just a little frustrated, that's all.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Matthew Kimber using Firefox 1.0.7 on Windows XP | March 28, 2006 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    Nice post Aaron. I agree strongly with many of your points and I am glad to see you voicing your concern for our school's reputation and quality of education. It is very true that the computer science department here at WSU needs both an overhaul and a marketing plan. Basically some kind of roadmap would be nice for the faculty to work on.

    I also am bewildered by the lack of use the UNIX lab gets (be it class or extra-curricular activities). UNIX and other variants are for sure something that will exist in the computer industry as professional computing platforms and we need to learn them (in-depth). Unfortunately, I don't think there is a single *NIX class being taught now, with the removal of the Unix & C CS.1130 class.

    Perhaps some kind of petition is in order. I do know this, something has to be done to bring this to the faculties attention (as well as that of the dean and other higher level faculty members).

  2. Aaron using Firefox 1.5.0.1 on Ubuntu | March 30, 2006 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Thanks.

    I have thought about a petition going around the department, however, I am afraid of burning bridges. I seem to have a knack for that. :) In the meanwhile, I plan on spending a great deal of my time advocating for the OALUG and Ubuntu-Utah groups as much as I can. I feel that if enough students and facutly get involved, changes may occur. I feel an indirect approach may be more effective here. I guess we'll see. Something does need to be done, though, and soon.

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