Regents OK engineering degree in information systems for Fort Hays State
04/28/2011

Moving ever forward in its leadership in information science education, Fort Hays State University has gained approval from the Kansas Board of Regents for a new Bachelor of Science degree in information systems engineering (ISE).

The program is designed to produce engineers capable of designing, maintaining and protecting information systems.

"No Kansas institution of higher education currently offers an information systems engineering degree," said FHSU President Edward H. Hammond. "We will be the first in Kansas and this part of the nation."

"We will be first," he said, "because it is Fort Hays State's unique strategic mission to focus on the integration of computer and telecommunications technology with education and the environment, and because we have a history of success and innovation in developing programs to prepare students for careers in computer networking and telecommunications, Web development, media studies and information assurance."

Recruiting will begin soon for the first students to begin class work in fall 2012. The goal is to enroll 45 to 50 new freshmen each year and maintain an overall enrollment of about 150 on-campus students in this new program.

The program itself will be a 130-hour program, with a 55-hour general education requirement heavy in computer, math, physics and statistics courses. The final 75 hours of ISE courses are focused on mathematics, physics, computer science, Web, software, informatics and specific ISE courses.

The ISE coursework includes "Foundations of Information Systems Engineering," "Game and Simulation Programming" (an elective), "Law and Ethics in Information Systems," and a required internship. The final course, "Capstone Seminar in ISE," will require students to design and create independent projects involving a "complex information system" that uses the knowledge gained from their studies.

According to Dr. Mark Bannister, dean of the College of Business and Leadership, "FHSU will build the program from existing Fort Hays State University faculty and academic strengths. The university has a strong pre-engineering program built on the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science and the Department of Physics, and much coursework will be provided by computer science, informatics and management information systems faculty."

The ISE program will be part of the Department of Informatics, which has been nationally recognized for the quality of its offerings. The department currently offers programs and degrees in computer networking and telecommunications, information networking, Web development, media studies, information assurance and others. It also has programs with an information assurance concentration in the Master of Business Administration and the Master of Liberal Studies.

Bannister said one of the many reasons that the Department of Informatics has been very successful has been due to its strong educational partnerships with software and hardware manufacturers. He expects the ISE program will draw similar corporate support.

"Regional companies such as Nex-Tech and Eagle Communications supported the degree proposal," he said. "National companies including Google, Cisco, Cargill and Koch Industries also provided support."

"We expect graduates of the program to have a positive impact on Kansas and the world beyond. Employers think very highly of Fort Hays State University graduates. They are known for being excellent problem solvers and for their work ethic."

FHSU's proposal cited Bureau of Labor Statistics and Kansas Department of Labor data that show rapid growth in fields that need graduates like those the ISE program would produce. The BLS noted that network systems and data communications analysts "are projected to be the second-fastest growing occupation in the economy.

The Kansas Department of Labor says that demand for these two occupational fields is expected to grow 54.7 percent from 2006 levels by 2016, a growth of 1,096 jobs. Its study showed that another category, network and computer systems administrators, is expected to add 1,421 jobs and computer applications software engineers are expected to see 1,191 more jobs.

The university expects to draw students from several areas. The ISE program will be initiated in conjunction with the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science Summer Engineering Institute, which will help orient students for a variety of engineering programs in Kansas, and the Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Engineering will be a strong draw for these students.

FHSU also expects to attract students through articulation agreements with community colleges, independent colleges and regional universities. Under articulation agreements, the course work transfers smoothly to the finishing institution, and the students' course work flows seamlessly into a degree program across both institutions.

Equally important, engineering degrees are especially attractive to international students.

"This new degree will help recruit new international students to the FHSU campus and serve as the basis for new international partnerships," said Dr. Larry Gould, FHSU provost and chief academic officer.

Very few U.S. institutions offer degrees in information system engineering. One of them, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, offers a Master of Science in information systems engineering.

FHSU's proposal to the Regents cited an article by Johns Hopkins faculty. The article notes the tremendous increase in data and the need for data analysis to inform decisions at all levels and types of leadership. Data analysts, the article says, are decreasing yet "the time frame to make the decisions is becoming smaller, the size of information systems that support decision systems is increasing, and information systems are becoming more vulnerable to attack."


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