New major and curriculum changes add pressure to EECS faculty

It’s no secret that the number of students entering Case Western Reserve University looking to study computer science or electrical engineering (EECS) has been increasing over the past few years. With that, the EECS Department is struggling to accommodate the large influx of students hoping to pursue a major it offers. With more students comes a greater strain on professors, funding and other resources to maintain a quality level of academics and research, and the EECS Department is looking to adapt to growing interest from students, as well as a growing field of study.

Kenneth Loparo, chair of the EECS Department, commented on its increasing challenges, “The challenge for us is that the student body is growing and we need to maintain strong undergraduate programs with classes that are not too large, but we also need to maintain a strong graduate program at the MS and PhD level.”

The EECS Department is not only struggling with the increasing number of students, but also addressing the increasing scope of engineering and computer science fields. This plays into how the department is handling the faculty hires; while the faculty had been adept at covering the curriculum, the appearance of new fields means that the faculty is starting to be spread thin. As a result, the department has recently hired two new faculty members for the department: a strategic hire at the school of engineering level and a tenure track professor for computer science.

The vision to expand the EECS Department includes the recent curriculum change to the computer science major. The recent change to the curriculum has allowed students who opt into the new program the ability to follow different tracks, which affects which courses they take.

For example, Databases has been split into two sections in order to meet the new demand. The new curriculum allows students to take the courses they want to take as opposed to general core requirements. It alleviates stress on professors who need to teach a breadth of different topics and on students who would otherwise not share an interest in the material.

“I think it’s important for us, as educators, to be keeping up with the newest trends and opportunities … and to continue to explore curriculum changes that accommodate the demands that students are going to have not today, but tomorrow,” says Loparo.

One major new addition that is included in the EECS Department’s expansion into covering new areas of study is the introduction of the data sciences major. The program was created with the intent to cover concepts of data science and analytics that are not sufficiently covered for computer engineers, electrical engineers or systems and control engineers. Studying this emerging field at the undergraduate level will prepare students with knowledge that has applications in manufacturing, industry, healthcare and other occupational areas.

“[I want to stress] the importance of timely investments,” emphasized Loparo. “Things change quickly, and even if you have the best idea today, if you can’t materialize it, and it takes you a long time to mount an appropriate response, the rest of the world is going to leave you behind.”

Correction to previous article on computer science requirements changes, “Computer science major requirements revamped”: The article stated that you needed to talk to Undergraduate Studies to stay on the old track, but the track you choose is the one you matriculate into. That is, someone who matriculates in 2014 stays on the old track while someone who matriculated this year will follow the current/new track.