School of Digital Sciences celebrates second birthday

Taylor Williams

Kent State’s School of Digital Sciences is celebrating its second birthday with slightly fewer than 200 undergraduates.

After years of planning, Robert Walker, director of the School of Digital Science, said he worked with Timothy Moerland, dean of the College of Arts and Science; Stanley Wearden, dean of the College Of Communication and Information; Dan Mahony, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Services; Robert Heisler, dean of the College of Business; and Don Bubenzer, interim dean of the College of Technology, to combine the five computing programs at Kent State.

During one semester in 2010, “we defined a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts program, defined a master’s degree and proposed the programs along with a new interdisciplinary school,” Walker said.

New programs gave way to new opportunities for both current and incoming students.

“The best part of the program is the opportunities that are available within all of the different concentrations,” said Nicole Kirkland, who was among the program’s first graduates in May 2013.

With “support from all areas” Walker said the Board of Trustees approved their ideas in March 2011, followed by final approval from the Ohio Board of Regents in mid-late summer 2011.

Because the launch was not until Fall 2011, students could not apply to the program that fall, Walker said, but some students, including Kirkland, changed majors a few weeks into the semester.

Kirkland was referred to Walker by her Computer Information Systems adviser and “loved everything he and the program had to offer,” she said, switching majors within a week of the meeting.

By Fall 2012, the program was “fully up-and-running with students applying to both BS/BA and MDS programs,” Walker said, after only having 12 undergraduate students and four graduate students in the first year.

“After working in Kent’s IT department I realized how different the work/learning experience was than taking standard classes,” Kirkland said. “Those are important but I felt Digital Science gave me more of a variety of classes in different areas.”

Entering its third semester, the School of Digital Sciences now has roughly 130 undergraduate students and 65 graduate students, Walker said.

He said each year “minor adjustments” are made because of new technological terminology or the need to rename concentrations.

By changing the curriculum to include more classes in other areas besides technology, students receive a broader education that allows for a wide variety of jobs rather than just in specialized areas, Walker said.

He said it is not looked at as a competition with other colleges but rather a large number of departments combining to benefit the student and in turn benefitting each department because students must take classes in the different areas.

The School of Digital Sciences can be a model for other programs and is “something that can span multiple colleges,” Walker said.

As technology changes, the program will change, as in any other college, Walker said.

Because this is the only Kent State school with a program like this, its success has been huge to Walker and the other founders. He said he hopes other departments can work together like this and allow students to take courses in other programs.

Kirkland said by showing students the opportunities out there, this program will only continue to grow.

Contact Taylor Williams at [email protected].