In the name of budget cuts, the “descandant” of the department I earned my Bachelor’s degree at the University of Florida, is to be dismantled and most of its elements moved into the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. My degree in Computer and Information Sciences (CIS) grew into Computer and Information Science Engineering (CISE). Not only is this award-winning department to be eliminated, but the role of its faculty that remain is to change from being instructors and researchers, to just instructors. This doesn’t bode well for the development of students learning computer science at UF, for you can only attract quality faculty if they are recognized for their worth as instructors and researchers. The research that they perform certainly makes its way into the classroom, teaching UF’s students new concepts, ideas, and ways of thinking about computing and the development of applications which benefit society as a whole.
It is the teaching of the development of applications that bothers me, for it appears that the teaching of software design will be significantly reduced under this arrangement. I know that computing has come a long way from when I earned my CIS degree at UF in 1977, but programming and software design are the cornerstones of computing. Indeed, my entire degree was centered around learning software design and development. I did have to take two electrical engineering courses, crosslisted as CIS/EE 361 and 362, if my memory is correct, both of which were “how to build your own digital comptuer.” However, my major was in programming and software design. It is that education that I used throughout my career – writing and testing code, and designing and developing software systems for business and industry. If this component of the computing curriculum at UF will be reduced or even dissolved in scope and stature, it will be to the great detriment of the students, the faculty, the university, the State of Florida, and even the nation as a whole.
Future technological solutions to our country’s problems rely on critical thinkers who have been taught the best methods of analysis, design, and development of the software used solve these problems. Yes, electrical and computing engineering teaches students how to build the computers and platforms on which the software will run. However, software design is a vitally important discipline, and it should not be eliminated at UF.