Report on Undergraduate Forum of March 29, 2018

The CSE Undergraduate Studies Committee (UGSC) organized the annual undergraduate forum on March 29, 2018 in Knowlton 190. The forum started at about 5:30 pm and continued till about 6:45 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. The summary is based on notes made by Paolo Bucci and Jeremy Morris; many thanks to both for taking detailed notes.

The forum was attended by a number of faculty, staff advisors, members of the computing staff, and about 15 students from pre-majors to seniors.
Faculty: Matt Boggus, Paolo Bucci, Mike Green, Jeffrey Jones, Jeremy Morris, Paul Sivilotti, Neelam Soundarajan, Rafe Wenger.
Advisors: LaNorris Alexander, Leslie Dowler, Nikki Strader, CA Wade, Serena Davis.
Computing staff: Dave Kneisly, Josh Davis.
Summary of discussion:

  1. Neelam briefly welcomed everyone to the forum, explained the purpose of the forum, and explained the activities of the Undergrad Studies Committee and the Curriculum Committee. Following that, everyone in the room introduced themselves (and then it was time to get the pizza and pop!).

  2. One of the key activities during the year was the regular accreditation evaluation of the BS-CSE program by ABET (the accreditation Board for engineering and technology programs). Neelam summarized the changes we made following the evaluation, based on the findings of the evaluation team.

The rest of the session was devoted to questions/comments/suggestions from students and responses/follow-ups by faculty and staff.

  1. Comment: The two Fundamentals of Engineering courses are not really useful for prospective BS-CSE majors (except as far as the focus on technical writing and collaboration skills are concerned) ... a course/courses tailored to computing would be more useful ...
    Comment: The FE program is more intended to give students a broad idea of engineering as a whole, rather than as an intro to CSE or other areas ...
    Response: The College of Engineering would not be happy with tailored courses for individual disciplines since the college has been pushing the idea of engineering as a unified field ...
    Follow-up: Would there be interest in an intro class tailored for (pre-)majors?
    Student comment: Yes! CSE 1223 can be a turn-off!
    Follow-up: Currently, about 30-40\% of students place out of the intro course but the rest still need an intro course.
    Follow-up: No data about any correlation between the performance of students in SW I/II and whether or not they took CSE 1223.
  2. Comment/question: We get to see Git rather late ... introducing it earlier would encourage students to get involved in side projects.
    Follow-up: Teaching version control to beginning students is not practical since there are significant technical issues involved ...
  3. Changes in computing services etc.: During the last year, the College of Engineering has been embarked on some major changes in the computing facilities and services provided to students, faculty and staff ... these include consolidating Windows Active Directory structure, all storage being on CoE servers, Windows and Linux systems being completely separate etc. Any students encountering problems with their computer accounts, including access etc., should stop by the Help Desk in Dreese 895.
  4. Comment/question: Some courses (Real-time rendering, Advanced algorithms, others?) don't seem to be offered ...?
    Follow-up: The course on real-time rendering should be offering in '18-'19. More generally, given our faculty size etc., courses with low demand have a low priority when deciding which courses (and how many sections of each) to offer. But if there is a particular course that you and other students are interested in that may not be offered, let Nikki and the Advising Office know; that might improve its chances of being offered.
    Comment/question: Is there a plan to restructure the AI course sequence?
    Response: There is some high-level discussion going on but nothing definite yet.
    Comment: Career services support in ASC is quite different from that in Eng. Career Services (ECS).
    Follow-up: This is true but ASC Career Services is better than it used to be. But let the Advising Office if there are some specific issues.
  5. Scholarships: This year's scholarships have already been decided ... but look for announcements in mid-January and make sure to apply if you think you qualify.
  6. Comment: Is there an ACM student chapter? Also, many schools have a faculty mentor/coach to help students participate effectively in programming competitions such as ACM-ICPC ... why don't we have any?
    Follow-up: We do have active Hackathon's etc. ... will look into the idea of a mentor for programming competitions.
  7. Comment: Support for student research?
    Follow-up: Jeremy Morris collects possible projects from faculty who may have opportunites for undergrads in their labs ... currently not too many options in CS; but let Jeremy know of your interest.
  8. Question: What is the best way for students to make suggestions?
    Follow-up: The dept. has two key committees, the Undergrad Studies Committee and the Curriculum Committee. Both have student representatives on them. If you would like to serve on either or both, let the Advising Office know.

If you have any comments or questions on this report, please email Neelam (soundarajan.1).