TU Expanding IT Programming through MHEC Grant

Project Team for curriculum development
Project Team for curriculum development

Towson, Md. (March 9, 2011) “Expanding the Reach of Towson University IT Programs” is the title of a $73,844 grant made to the university through the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) BRAC Higher Education Investment Fund, and that’s exactly what the project directors are doing.

Mike O’Leary, Director of the Center for Applied Information Technology and project director, notes that there’s been huge growth in TU’s applied information technology master’s program, much of it driven by base realignment and closure (BRAC) activities in Maryland.  Major information technology (IT) organizations have moved to Maryland as a result of BRAC, so it’s important, now more than ever, that we improve and expand our IT programs.  Doing so will benefit not only those directly affected by BRAC, but also the general student (and prospective student) population.  As O’Leary points out, “Everyone in IT is affected by BRAC because the job market is affected by BRAC.” 

Much of the growth in our AIT program is online. The MHEC funding will allow the university to continue that growth by offering the introductory programming course online— most other courses in the program are already offered online. This course is a requirement for students who don’t already have programming skills, and making it available online will make the course more accessible to all students.

In 2010, Towson’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences introduced a new B.S. degree in Information technology designed to meet the region’s high-tech work force needs, including those of BRAC. “Demand for the program has exceeded expectations” says Scott Hilberg, the IT program director.  In the first year, “enrollment is nearly double initial projections,” he adds.

Much of the MHEC funding will be used for undergraduate and graduate curriculum development, led by Adam Conover, James Braman and Gabriele Meiselwitz, working with project director, Scott Hilberg,  and co-director Suranjan Chakraborty. Funds will also be used for the purchase of equipment that will allow the online offering.

O’Leary credits a true team effort with the successful MHEC proposal.  He notes that the Office of Technology Services (OTS), in addition to the faculty project team, has been instrumental in securing the funding and ensuring the project’s success. Tom Alcide of OTS has worked with the project team from the beginning. Through his work and that of his colleagues in OTS, students will be able to access remotely the exact software environment in the exact format as students sitting in our on-campus laboratory.

 “The MHEC funding is not only allowing us to expand the breath and reach of our IT programs--it is also helping us to fulfill our mission as a metropolitan university,” Hilberg adds. At least two of the new IT courses will be offered as special topics and the introductory programming course will be offered online in  fall  2011.

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