Report on Undergraduate Forum of Feb. 5, 2009

The CSE Undergraduate Studies Committee (UGSC) organized the annual undergraduate forum on Feb. 5, '09 in DL 305. The forum started at about 5:30 pm and continued till about 7:20 pm, with most students staying on till near the end. The summary below tries to describe the main points that were made during the discussions but does not capture the enthusiasm of the participants.

Ryan Munsch, junior;
Jamie Colley, senior;
Joung-Hyun Lee, senior;
Corey Zanotti, sophomore;
Daniel Charnigo, senior;
Michael Yanovich, sophomore;
Aaron Joseph, senior;
Casandra Sampeur, sophomore;
Alex Bunch, freshman;
Ritu Biala, freshman;
Paresh Rawat, freshman;
Chris Crawford, sophomore;
Vincent Conley, sophomore;
Sankalp Sharma, senior;
Jason Kirschenbaum, BS-CSE alum;
Derek Bronish, BS-CSE alum;
Faculty: Bettina Bair, Paolo Bucci, Paul Sivilotti, Neelam Soundarajan, Bruce Weide.
Advising Office: Peg Steele.
Systems Staff: Michael Compton, Shaun Rowland


  1. Everyone in the room briefly introduced themselves.

  2. DL 172: Students reported on the very positive impact that DL 172 seems to be having on its users. It provides a very accessible and reasonably pleasant place where students can meet other students with similar computing-related interests, work on projects for their classes, etc. All students are strongly urged to take advantage of the room. Interacting with other students who might be taking the same classes or may have recently completed those classes can greatly help student performance in classes. One comment/suggestion was that the number of power outlets in the room was rather limited. As a result, students don't always have an outlet to plug their laptops into. Mike Compton promised to look into it to see if there is a solution.

  3. Student organizations: Jamie Colley from ACM-W and Aaron Joseph from the Open Source group briefly talked about their respective organizations. Both are active and provide students with a number of opportunities to interact with other students and work on a variety of projects. It is worth mentioning that ACM-W is not, by any means, restricted to just women; a number of male students are members and active in the group. The Open Source group provides students an opportunity to work on various software ("hacking") projects. Students who have not yet participated in these groups are urged to give them a chance.
    On a related note, Bettina Bair mentioned that students might want to check out Free Geek, a volunteer organization that "provides computers and training for limited-resource populations in Central Ohio through redistribution of used equipment and the use of Free Software".

  4. Job market: The job market for CSE and CIS majors, despite the serious recent problems in the overall economy, seems to be holding steady. Recent average starting salaries for new CIS/CSE grads have been in the mid-fifties. Companies involved with defense projects seem to be doing especially well. At the same time, students should do whatever they can to beef up their resumes. One particularly useful activity is internships in suitable companies. The Engineering Career Services office can be quite helpful in finding both internship as well as fulltime, permanent positions following graduation. Both CIS and CSE majors can are eligible to use the services of that office.

  5. Communicating with students: Ensuring effective communications between faculty, students and staff is obviously essential. Unfortunately, over the last several years, students seem to have become less informed about the activities and initiatives in the dept. One important reason for this is that fewer students seem to read the electronic newsgroups which, historically, have been among the most effective means of communications in the dept. It was for this reason that, some years ago, mailing lists of the addresses of all majors (and pre-majors) in the dept. were created so that important messages could be sent to those lists. Unfortunately, it seems that many students are not reading the messages sent out on these lists. A possible explanation for this is that perhaps too many messages are being sent out on the list. A possible alternative to the mailing lists would be social networking sites such as Facebook; whether these are practical remains to be seen.
    (Later note: After the forum, Bruce analyzed the data on the number of messages sent out on the mailing lists; it turns out to be relatively modest and all the messages sent in the recent past seem quite appropriate. Moreover, several students and faculty had concerns about using something like Facebook for this purpose. So, at least for now, it seems best not to make any changes.)

  6. BS-CSE Program Objectives and Outcomes: Because of recent changes in the CAC and EAC Accreditation Criteria for the BS-CSE program, we have to make some changes in the objectives and outcomes statement for that program. After extensive discussion, the Undergraduate Studies Committee has come with a revised set of objectives and outcomes. Neelam briefly explained the changes and the reasons behind them. The BS-CSE majors at the forum felt the changes were reasonable and appropriate. The revised objectives and outcomes will be presented to the CSE faculty for its approval before being adopted.

  7. Discussion concerning various courses: There was a somewhat extended discussion of the RESOLVE sequence. The main concern seemed to be that although RESOLVE teaches important design principles, many students don't seem to apply them in later courses possibly because in these later courses, they use standard C++ (or Java), rather than RESOLVE/C++. The new CSE 421 should help with this since it will allow students to transition from RESOLVE/C++ to Java without abandoning the design principles discussed in the 221-sequence.

    This led to the question of how to make CSE 421 a required course without increasing the number of credit hours in the program. One new idea that was suggested was that CSE 541 (Numerical Analysis) could be made an elective course with CSE 421 replacing it as the required course; 541 would be an elective course. This would seem like a very good solution except for one problem, i.e., ECE (Computer option) majors do not take 541; they do take their own numerical analysis course but chances ECE would not want to replace that with 421. The Undergrad Studies Comm. will look into this further.

    In addition to CSE 421, a number of other courses have been recently developed or are in the process of being developed:

    The courses have been well received and all are expected to become permanent courses.

    There was also some discussion of research opportunities for undergrads. There are indeed several opportunities available. Information about some of these is available from Undergrad Research page in the main Undergrad web site. For this coming summer, opportunities outside OSU may also be available. Bettina mentioned one at Hope College in Michigan; see this site for details.

  8. Scholarship applications: Scholarship applications are due March 3. Students interested in applying should check with the Advising Office.