The first students in a new master’s track in computer science at Oregon State University will start in the fall term of 2017. The track will focus on software innovation for students who are seeking careers as software designers and architects.
Chris Scaffidi, associate professor of computer science, saw an opportunity to help both students and employers and has spent the last year developing the new track in collaboration with James Coakley, associate dean of the College of Business. The rigorous two-year program is hands-on, immersive, and focused on implementation rather than research.
“Historically, our master’s program has trained students to do research, but most of our master’s students go into industry,” Scaffidi said. “And so we’re fine tuning the training that we give to students in order to better target what employers are looking for.”
Based on conversations with dozen of employers about skills and attributes they look for, Scaffidi developed a curriculum that emphasizes software architecture, software development, and real-world projects.
“Employers often say they’re looking for employees who can take relatively ambiguous abstract requirements and work together in a team to make sense of those requirements, implement something using agile methods, and then deploy and test it,” Scaffidi said.
The coursework was selected to support a focus on inventing new kinds of software. The courses demand considerable programming, designing and evaluating of software and cover other topics in software engineering, human-computer interaction, security, databases, systems, and innovation management.
“I’m structuring the courses, seminars and other activities to grow students’ natural curiosity, to train them in how to translate user experiences into requirements and to working software, and to test and deploy those systems,” Scaffidi said.
The students’ master’s project will be a real-world application of their new skills by working directly with a company on novel software or developing their own marketable software. They are team projects, so each student is the lead on their own project and also works on other projects in a supporting role.
Scaffidi anticipates all the students will complete a paid internship during the summer between the two academic years. An internship it is not a requirement of the program, but it is highly encouraged and he will help any student who is interested in finding an internship.
Although Scaffidi has been talking to employers throughout the development of this program he is still very interested in hearing what kinds of training employers are looking for so he can continue to hone the curriculum.
“Employers can also commit to look at student resumes in order to potentially hire them for internships in the coming summer which would be 2018, or after the students graduate in 2019,” he said.
“So, if they are interested, I’m looking forward to hearing from them and I’m eager to have a conversation,” Scaffidi said.