The Northerner | Principals and Program Leaders Speak Out on New College of Computing Schools

The new semester marks a turning point for the College of Computing, which will begin to include two new schools. All existing diploma courses are now grouped within the School of Computing and Analytics or the School of Media and Communication.

The School of Computing and Analytics offers degree programs in Information Systems and Analytics (Business Information System, Health Informatics, Library Informatics), Computer Science and Software Engineering (Applied Software Engineering, Computer Science , data science) and in cybersecurity and information technology. Master’s programs in management informatics, health informatics and cybersecurity are also grouped within the school.

The School of Media and Communication includes Communication and Public Relations (Communication Studies, Health Communication, Public Relations and a Masters program in Communication) as well as Media and Journalism (3D Digital Design and Visual Effects , electronic media and broadcasting, journalism).

According to College of Computing Dean Kevin Kirby, the reorganization is intended to elevate the COI programs and increase clarity for prospective students. It follows the model of the existing School of Arts, which was once made up of three separate departments: Drama and Dance, Music and Fine Arts.

“We have a College of Computing – although some people don’t know what computing is – and then we have three departments,” Kirby said. “We thought, ‘Well, why not combine two of them around the theme of computing and analytics, bring these people together, and then elevate communications and media?'”

Kirby hopes that bringing together different people from different disciplines will give them new ideas about curriculum, research projects, student engagement, international affairs, and interaction with other colleges. It will also make it easier to break down barriers between disciplines, so that a journalism professor interested in data journalism, for example, can get an appointment in the part of the school that focuses on databases. and analysis.

Two directors will assume the management of the schools. Traian Marius Truta, previously Associate Director of the Computer Science Department, is the Acting Director of the School of Computer Science and Analytics. The Chair of the Department of Communication, Stephen Yungbluth, is now the Acting Director of the School of Media and Communication.

The new schools are currently in a pilot year awaiting approval from President Ashish Vaidya and the Board of Trustees. Kirby and the new principals assure that the reorganization will produce no direct or immediate changes to the curriculum, degree requirements, class schedules or faculty.

“It’s mainly a reorganization of faculty levels,” Truta said. “The impact [on students] is almost non-existent. »

Indeed, the formation of new schools primarily affects faculty and staff structures at the administrative level. A program manager now oversees each program – made up of several degrees – within the schools.

Rasib Khan is the Computer Science and Software Engineering Program Manager, Tony Tsetse the Cybersecurity and Information Technology Manager and Crystal Summers the Information Systems and Analytics Manager. Within the School of Media and Communication, Zach Hart is in charge of communication and public relations and Sara Drabik leads media and journalism.

According to Yungbluth, such a restructuring shifts the workload away from the department manager, allowing the division of labor to be more manageable for everyone involved. The principal’s responsibilities aren’t too different from those of a department chair, he said, such as curriculum review and faculty performance. But in his new position, he now has more freedom to take on other tasks.

Yungbluth is looking forward to exploring what he always wanted to do as a department manager, but never found the time, and to spend more time on strategic initiatives instead of managing day-to-day operations. Among his priorities is planning class times further in advance, so that students know better when certain classes are offered and can plan their schedules accordingly.

For Kirby, the greater impact of the new schools adds to how Northern Kentucky University stands out from other universities. COI is joined at the hip with other NKU colleges and works alongside other NKU hallmarks like SOTA and the Health Innovation Center to elevate the institution, he said.

As the new model enters the pilot, he eagerly waits to see the new leaders settle into their positions.

“You have young faculty members who have never been leaders before, and suddenly they can shape programs. It’s really nice to see that: you have all this creative energy that we release,” Kirby said.

Rasib Khan came to NKU in 2016 as an associate professor specializing in cybersecurity. He has been involved in multiple initiatives for the Cybersecurity department, chairman of the pre-proposal committee, and was offered the position of program manager for computer science and software engineering in July. In addition to taking care of all major and minor programs, he carries out maintenance and updates to the school’s website.

“There are a lot of moving parts right now, a lot of roles that are being defined and redefined,” Khan said, adding that overlapping subject areas within the school will enable collaboration between faculty and increase the efficiency of management.

Sarah Drabik was already Program Director for Electronic Media and Broadcasting before being approached with an offer of involvement as Program Manager, a role she considers a natural fit. Although her responsibilities as program leader are still under discussion, she is involved in creating and scheduling courses, enrolling students, organizing tours, attending recruitment events, and setting up students’ relationship with professors who can deepen their interest.

“I see it as a service role to the department, to the college, and more importantly I’m just there to help the rest of the faculty in my program, to teach their courses to the best of their abilities, to work with their students, so that everything stays organised,” she said.

As the new schools are indeed under construction, the road ahead will not be without obstacles. Kirby says competition from other universities and declining enrollment are the main challenges COI will face in the future. Other challenges include keeping the curriculum up-to-date and providing students with cutting-edge education, which can prepare them for graduation in ever-changing fields.

“You hear the dean talk about how a school is more of a destination, so [the challenge is] making sure that we are in fact a destination, that we can live up to that meaning of a name and what it offers,” Yungbluth said. “It sounds more prestigious, but if there’s nothing to back it up, it might become meaningless.”

For Truta, the challenge is to make sure everyone knows who to contact and how things will unfold from now on.

“By trying out this model, we hope to lay the foundation for true college transformation in the years to come,” Truta said. “We try to make things work better and we try to increase the visibility of schools outside of NKU.”

The COI also provides internal grants and talks with board members, company representatives, employers and stakeholders, all to develop new ideas for leveraging the schools.

“I guess the most important thing about schools is just a foundation,” Kirby added. “They’re not going to change the world by themselves, but they make change much easier and much faster.”

Echoing that sentiment, Drabik hopes to put a good front on the programs for everyone in the community, both at NKU and beyond.

“We do a lot and not everyone understands that. Our students and faculty have won so many awards, worked on so many projects, helped so many nonprofits in the community. They left such a mark on the region and I’m glad it’s more widely known,” she said. “I’m thrilled that this new structure can make it easier for us to do even cooler things, to leave even more of an impact.”

About Irene J. O'Donnell

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