Welcome to the Wiki for the UW-Oshkosh CS Alumni Board.
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Purpose of the Alumni Board
The Computer Science Alumni Advisory Board is a group of alumni invited by the Computer Science department to help assess the Computer Science program, in particular the ABET-accredited Computer Science emphasis. The board prepares an annual report to the department's Assessment Committee summarizing the strengths and weaknesses of the program relative to the Program Objectives. Specifically these objectives are:
- Graduates will have an in-depth knowledge of a wide range of areas in computer science, and an understanding of the fundamental mathematical, statistical, and scientific principles underlying computing.
- Graduates will be prepared for entry-level positions as computing professionals at the regional and national levels, and for the pursuit of advanced degrees via graduate study.
- Graduates will be prepared to communicate effectively both orally and in writing and to work effectively with others.
- Graduates will have an appreciation and understanding of the societal implications of computing and of the ethical behavior expected of professionals in the field.
The Alumni Board's report also recommends improvements particularly to the curriculum and the computing facilities.
- Jessica Gowey, Programmer (Great Lakes Educational Loan Services), email@example.com
- Ed Karrels, Independent Contractor (and Google Alumnus), firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jerry Lucarelli, IT Consultant, email@example.com
- Jeff Lucas, Programmer Analyst, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Russell Miller, Programming Supervisor (James Tower), email@example.com
- Brian Paul, Senior engineer, co-founder, Tungsten Graphics, Inc., firstname.lastname@example.org
- Julie Sherwin, Application Systems Analyst (Thrivent), email@example.com
Work on the 2007 Alumni Board Report
Jeff Lucas, whom I know well enough to "arm twist" into doing a big-time favor has "volunteered" to put together a Summary of the Board's discussion this year.
--Tom Naps 15:03, 18 May 2007 (CDT)
Emerging Discussion Topics
As each of you responded on your individual pages, it became clear (especially when pointed out in an e-mail from Jeff Lucas) that a good organizational scheme for the Wiki would be to group things by topic rather than by person. Hence I've started a few topical pages, with appropriate hyperlinks below. If you follow any of those links you'll see that I've already "started" the page by cutting-and-pasting relevant text from your prior individual comments.
--Tom Naps 17:07, 10 April 2007 (CDT)
OK, I'll admit this is self-serving, but, as valuable as all your discussion about how we can improve is, it's also great if the Alumni Board's musings give us some material that help us sell ourselves to prospective students and to those administrators who make the decisions about how to support various programs in an academic world of limited resources.
In an industry where demand for CS majors is again healthy, nationwide the number of CS majors has dropped by about 50% since the dot-com bust. Here at UWO, we've gone from 240 majors to 140. That's better than the national average, but we're still very concerned about attracting students into the program -- especially good students -- without them we're dead in the water.
How can we balance the abstract and theoretical aspects of Computer Science with making sure students acquire the very practical skills they will need when they discover, in Jerry Lucarelli's words, "many companies are not interested or don't have the resources to allow a Software Engineer/Programmer to create well designed and coded robust long-term solutions."
What are strategies for exposing students to this increasingly important mode of development?
The initial "charge" for the Board this year
I'd ask that each of you look over the documents below and my summary of actions that the department has taken to address areas that need attention. After doing that, "click your link" above and use your edit space to provide a brief professional bio of yourself and also to provide an initial response to the following two questions: "Where do you see areas of concern from your current perspective on the department? In what ways do you feel good about where the department is apparently headed?" --Tom Naps 21:03, 1 February 2007 (CST)
Some relevant documents for the board's consideration
What I've tried to do here is provide the board members with a few documents and other sources of information that can let you "get your head around" where the department is today and what it has done over the last two years relative to the continual self-assessment we engage in.
The departmental web page The site that we hope tells anyone everything they want to know about the department.
The Report of the initial Alumni Board in 2005. Note how what you see here from the first Alumni Board Report has found its way into the other assessment documents and recruiting materials that appear below. We take what you say seriously!
The Department's 2005 Assessment Report This is an annual assessment report prepared by the department each spring. In it, we take into account everything the Alumni Board says - good and bad - and a lot of other assessment metrics - for example, exit interviews for graduating seniors and our how our students fare on the Computer Science Major Field Test (http://www.ets.org/hea/mft/) that they are required to take. You probably don't want to wade through this entire document. The "Conclusions and Recommendations" section at the end is most relevant for the deliberations of the Alumni Board. Here's a quick-and-dirty summary of the key recommendations in that report. In particular, the CS Department needs to:
- Address weak areas (security, parallel and distributed computing, and software testing)
- Bolster enrollment
- Invigorate Computer Science club.
- Improve public relations and recruitment of students for the major.
The Department's 2006 Assessment Report The department's assessment report for 2006. Structured as the 2005 report above. Again you probably are most interested in the "Conclusions and Recommendations". Here's a quick overview of the recommendations from this 2006 report:
- Require Practicum and Internship students to attend workshop associated with the campus Career Services office to develop professional skills such as resume writing and interviewing.
- Work on recruiting faculty. With the departure of two department members during the past academic year, it is important to replenish the faculty ranks quickly.
- As recommended by both the most recent program review and recent graduating seniors, create opportunities for social connections to develop among the majors. Some possibilities are
- Set up a lounge for computer science students;
- Organize social gatherings;
- Set up a wiki for social interaction.
A departmental recruiting brochure, which cites the work of the 2005 Alumni Board as one of the reasons a prospective student might want to choose UWO
What has the department been doing to address some of the concerns above?
Improving public relations and outreach
We've begun to work with the Center for Community Partnerships (http://www.uwopartners.org/) to have them act as a mini-employment agency for our students who are seeking internships. We're seeing this pay off, as recently two students landed internships with Plexus, one of the premier employers in the Fox Cities.
Recruitment of students
To more actively recruit students from area high schools we've tried to strategically distribute the brochure above to area high school teachers of Computer Science and to admitted students who have indicated an interest and aptitude for Computer Science.
To recruit undecided students into the major once they have arrived on campus, Professor David Furcy has led an effort to introduce robotics into our introductory Java courses. We feel that having a few assignments in this course where students get to solve problems by programming the Lego NXT robot (http://lejos.sourceforge.net) will "turn them on" to Computer Science in a way that is both fun and demanding. Recently Professor Furcy has submitted a grant proposal to the HP Technology Program, which, if funded, will make this robotic dream a reality. If you're interested, see a summary of Dr. Furcy's HP proposal.
Although the university budget makes it difficult to introduce additional courses in a time of tight budgets and declining computer science enrollments, we've addressed the introduction of security into our curriculum by covering security related topics in three different courses. In the File Structures course, we now cover encryption. In the Web Software Design course, we cover techniques for protecting the security of a Web site. Finally, in Software Engineering II, we examine some of the "human" procedural strategies that can be used to make sure people themselves don't do "dumb" things to compromise the security of a system.
Filling faculty vacancies
Although four faculty have left in the last three years (Garry Briscoe, Jonathan Yackel, Andy Perrie, and Peter Worland), the university administration has budgeted three positions to replace these four. That may seem like a net loss, but it's not that bad. In the face of declining enrollments here and nation-wide (roughly 40%), it's totally understandable that administrators would not fund us at the levels we were during the Internet boom of 1998-2000. Our concern has been to fill the three positions. Toward that end, last year we hired Dr. David Furcy (Ph.D., Georgia Tech). This year, we are elated to report that Dr. Kathy Faggiani (Ph.D., University of Colorado, Boulder) and Dr. Robert Ball (Ph.D., Virginia Tech) have accepted offers and will be joining our faculty next year. Kathy has wealth of expertise in the Software Engineering area, and she will be taking over our Software Engineering I and II sequence. Robert's specialty is Human-Computer Interface (HCI) issues. You can learn much about the kind of work he's doing by visiting his Web site at 
This year the CS Club has somewhat re-invigorated itself after falling into the doldrums for a few years. To get an idea of some of the club's activities this year, see http://www.uwosh.edu/cs_club/wiki
--Tom Naps 21:03, 1 February 2007 (CST)