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Published September 18, 2023
The new school will offer academic programs and serve as an interdisciplinary hub.
By Micaela Myers
In 2022, the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees approved the creation of the School of Computing, which serves as hub for computing and digital skills. The school aims to provide UW students, faculty and staff — and Wyoming businesses and citizens — with the computational tools and approaches to drive transformation and innovation in the state.
“The School of Computing is fundamentally about students,” says Director Gabrielle Allen. “Across every discipline and every major, employers are looking for students who know how to use computers and data and how to apply that knowledge in novel and interesting ways.”
The School of Computing began by launching a minor this fall, helping prepare UW’s students for the workforce.
“Employees who have computing skills are poised for success and are better equipped to navigate the rapidly changing digital landscape,” says Administrative Associate Judy Yates. “They are more versatile, adaptable and productive and can collaborate more effectively with colleagues and clients. Having basic computing knowledge also opens up new career opportunities in fields of agriculture, business, health care, humanities and many others. Adding our minor to any major increases your learning and earning potential.”
Students will learn how to approach problems, utilize software options and work on interdisciplinary teams. Similar to research scholar programs in science and engineering, students can apply to become computing scholars, earning money toward their education along with hands-on research opportunities. An internship program will give students the opportunity to collaborate with Wyoming companies.
The school is also working in partnership with Wyoming community colleges to offer a bachelor’s degree in applied software development. Students will complete their software development associate degree from a Wyoming community college and then transfer to UW.
Sheridan College was the first community college to offer the program in fall of 2022, with Western Wyoming Community College and Central Wyoming College offering the degree in the fall of 2024.
“There are many positive forces that aligned at the right time, contributing to the successful creation and launch of this program,” says Sheridan College President Walt Tribley. “Funding and support — both from a local Sheridan foundation, Whitney Benefits, and from Gov. Mark Gordon’s Wyoming Innovation Partnership program — were instrumental in the speed at which this opportunity was put in place for students and our state. That support and the vision and knowledge of our Sheridan College faculty member Mark Thoney, along with teammates throughout the state, created a model for which everyone can be proud.”
Sheridan College Computer Science Instructor Mark Thoney graduated from Sheridan High School and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UW in computer science. However, he explains that computer science and computer engineering differ from the new software degrees. One way they differ is requiring less advanced mathematics, which is a barrier for many students or those switching careers.
“While advanced mathematical skills are advantageous for aspects of software engineering and essential for research, advanced mathematics is not required for many software development jobs,” he says. “Software development, which could be seen as a subset of software engineering, is concerned with writing, modifying and debugging software that solves business problems with a focus on web applications, automation or mobile app development.”
The School of Computing will roll out certificates and graduate degrees in the future. Allen says the school will help provide a bridge between new tech, computer science and applications as well as bring the varied expertise on campus to bear on problems of regional and national importance, including garnering external research funding.
WyGISC Joins School of Computing
This past summer, the Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center (WyGISC) joined the new School of Computing. WyGISC is an interdisciplinary academic center focused on education, research and development of geospatial technologies, including geographic information science and technologies (GIST), and their applications in science, government, business and other areas. It currently offers a number of certificates and degrees.
“The School of Computing’s aim is to provide students with many easy pathways to use the power of computing and technology in their chosen discipline. The existing academic programs in WyGISC fit this model perfectly,” says Instructional Professor Beth McMillan. “GIST is computing and technology applied to spatial data in disciplines ranging from geology, botany, atmospheric science, rangeland management, environmental science, business, tourism, urban planning and public health. The School of Computing is planning to develop courses and expertise in other areas like digital ethics, artificial intelligence, big data and supercomputing. All of these will add depth to the existing GIST programs.”
School of Computing Director Gabrielle Allen says WyGISC will be well positioned within the school to take advantage of the increasing use of spatial data in augmented and virtual reality. The latest AR/VR headsets overlay digital information on the physical environment. “This will change how individuals interact with their surroundings, opening up new growth areas in computing for navigation, exploration and real-time data visualization,” she explains.
Also read our blog: Decoding Opportunities: The Power of a Computing Minor