An expectation of increased funding, faculty and future students makes the addition of the master's degree program in computer science welcome news to Tennessee Tech University.
The program fills the state's need for a computer science graduate program with a significantly greater technical focus, instead of a balanced mix of the technical and business sides of electronic commerce.
"We've already been successful in our hiring with two new faculty this fall with research interests in data mining, artificial intelligence, and distributed and parallel computing," said Srini Ramaswamy, TTU's Computer Science Department chairperson.
Approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents in March and by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission earlier this month, the program is up and running this fall with five students.
The interest in this program spurred its final approval. Between June and November 2001, the department documented the second highest number of inquiries, behind only the TTU's College of Engineering, about a graduate program.
Increased external funding, including National Science Foundation grants, will be easier to attract with the establishment of a strong graduate program, said Ramaswamy. Those funds also affect the undergraduate program's quality through upgrading laboratory and classroom facilities, and hiring teaching and lab assistants.
More faculty members also means a wider variety of classes, especially in emerging fields, for undergraduates. Offering expanded undergraduate research opportunities and projects meets the recent market demand for graduates who have studied current issues in computer science.
Ramaswamy points out three major areas of impact the graduate program can have on the immediate labor market: greater job opportunities in the field for people with a bachelor's degree or higher, growth of the Internet-based software industry, and increased investments in the software industry.
"A key focus of our program is software systems related to the growth of e-commerce and other business uses of the Internet," he said. "As computer prices drop and more marketing occurs on the Internet, the demand for consumer software will grow. We'll prepare our students to take advantage of these opportunities."