New College of Computing to Drive Innovation in Education

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By Casey Moffitt

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Illinois Institute of Technology is strengthening its ability to provide the talent, tools, and technology to an emerging tech economy by taking the bold initiative of creating the College of Computing.

As computation and data become integral assets across commerce and industry, Illinois Tech is ensuring its graduates are equipped to capitalize on these assets to drive innovation and decision-making.

“We will create a new way of educating students, both within computing and horizontally across campus,” says Peter Kilpatrick, Illinois Tech’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Computation and data will be infused into the core of each educational discipline.”

The new college will lead Illinois Tech’s effort to provide every student—including those in engineering, design, science, architecture, humanities, law, and business—fluency in computation and data science thinking. The establishment of the College of Computing solidifies the university’s status at the forefront of developing the next generation of tech talent to fuel the economy of Chicago and beyond.

“Illinois Tech is already providing students with a very strong foundation in computation and data skills, but now we are going to do it in an integrated way across all academic disciplines, something we believe has never been accomplished in a comprehensive university with law, architecture, and the full range of disciplines,” said Alan W. Cramb, Illinois Tech’s president.

The concept of a college of computing isn’t new, but using it as a vehicle to infuse computation and data into all academic disciplines across campus is a rare, if not unique, educational model. It will allow the university to build computational and analytical skills into the core of each student’s educational experience.

Technologies and capabilities change quickly, providing plenty of new challenges in computing. With a dynamic ability to generate new programs and retire obsolete ones, the College of Computing will adapt with shifting technology.

“After the first year, the college will work from the ground up, rethinking the basic concepts of disciplines, courses, and degrees,” says College of Science Dean Lance Fortnow, a world-renowned computer scientist who will be the dean of the College of Computing. “In this fast-changing world, one cannot think of education ending at graduation, and the college must develop programs that grant our alumni a continuing life-long educational process, which will propel their careers.”

Chicago’s business and tech leaders are welcoming the change.

“Illinois Tech and the College of Computing will play a critical role in P33’s vision of building a stronger tech economy here in Chicago,” says Brad Henderson, chief executive officer of P33, an organization working to transform Chicago into a tier-one technology and innovation hub and to promote inclusive economic growth. “Through the creation of this new college, Illinois Tech is helping to ensure that our local talent pool is among the best in the nation and prepared to tackle the challenges of tomorrow’s tech ecosystem.”

Chris Gladwin, co-chair of P33 and an Illinois Tech trustee, helped spearhead the push for a College of Computing to meet the needs of the twenty-first century labor force. Gladwin founded big-data storage company Cleversafe, which was housed at Illinois Tech’s University Technology Park before it was sold to IBM.

“For years, Illinois Tech has been a key driver of the Chicago economy by empowering its graduates with the skills needed to succeed in tomorrow’s industries,” says Gladwin. “This leading approach to computing education is a key component in Illinois Tech establishing itself as a global top-tier tech university and empowering Chicago to advance to a global top-tier tech city.”

The College of Computing will include Illinois Tech’s current Department of Computer Science, which is home to some of the university’s fastest-growing programs like data science, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity. Other departments joining the College of Computing include the departments of information technology and management, industrial technology and management, and applied mathematics.

Currently, these departments offer a variety of computer science- and applied mathematics-related degrees. Combining them under the umbrella of the College of Computing will realize the natural synergies and cross fertilization of these programs.

Approved by the Illinois Tech Board of Trustees on February 13, the College of Computing is scheduled to launch on June 1.