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UW-Eau Claire Expands High-Tech
MAILED: Nov. 2, 2001
EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will expand and enhance its high-tech academic programs starting this year, providing additional opportunities for students who are planning for technology-related careers.
An estimated $2.4 million commitment from the state of Wisconsin will allow UW-Eau Claire to expand the capacity of its computer science, software engineering and management information systems programs. Some of the dollars will be used to add faculty and support staff in high-tech program areas, providing opportunities for at least 160 additional students to enroll in the programs each year. Some of the monies also will be used to create two new state-of-the-art computer labs, and provide additional research and internship opportunities for students enrolled in high-technology programs.
Known as the Chippewa Valley Initiative, this joint venture with UW-Stout is part of a UW System economic stimulus package designed to benefit the state - in this case, specifically western Wisconsin - as well as students, UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Donald Mash said.
"By increasing the number of graduates in our highly respected computer science, software engineering and MIS programs, we will provide the many technology companies in the area with an increased number of well-qualified prospective employees," Mash said, noting that the Chippewa Valley is often referred to as Wisconsin's Technology Valley. "A significant pool of well-trained technology graduates encourages high-tech businesses to keep and grow their companies here, which allows many of our brightest students the chance to begin their careers in the Chippewa Valley."
Currently, about 600 students are enrolled in high-tech programs at UW-Eau Claire, with some 130 students graduating each year - with a 100 percent placement rate for graduates of these programs.
"Due to the strengths and reputations of our high-tech programs, employers - including many from the Chippewa Valley - specifically target UW-Eau Claire students when recruiting technology graduates," said Provost Ronald Satz. "More than 120 local and regional employers with specific interests in computer science, software engineering and MIS graduates visit our campus each year seeking to fill some 200 open positions in high technology areas."
UW-Eau Claire's computer science and MIS programs already have internships established with more than 100 companies, internships that typically result in full-time, permanent job offers - offers that pay well. For example, the annual salary range for an entry-level MIS trainee with a bachelor's degree is $45,000-$52,000, according to UW-Eau Claire's Career Services office.
"On average, Great Lakes hired an IT professional nearly every week of the year for two years running," James Kraemer, technical recruiter for Great Lakes Higher Education Corp., said of opportunities for high-tech graduates. "Anything that a university such as Eau Claire can do to alleviate the shortage would certainly be appreciated by Great Lakes and other employers."
Data indicate that the demand for qualified high technology professionals will continue to increase. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that between 1996 and 2006 the occupations of systems analyst, database administrator and computer support specialist, and computer engineer will increase by more than 100 percent each. In Wisconsin, five of the six top fastest-growing occupations are related directly to computer technology, including computer engineers, systems analysts, database administrators and computer support specialists.
By increasing faculty and support staff in the high-tech program areas, smaller classes, thus more individual attention, will be available to students - a huge benefit given the challenges of the computer science and MIS programs, said Dr. Andrew Phillips, chair of the computer science department, the only nationally accredited computer science department in the state. And the additional faculty will allow for more flexibility in times that courses are offered, a necessity if the university is to better meet the needs of part-time and/or non-traditional students with an interest in technology-related careers, he said.
"This initiative allows us to do an even better job of serving our traditional, full-time students, while moving ahead with plans to increase access for part-time and/or non-traditional students," Phillips said, noting that there is a need for working professionals who study part time to have better access to high technology programs.
In the next year, UW-Eau Claire will begin to build its two new high-tech labs, one for software design and the other for systems control design. The university also will begin recruiting MIS, computer science and software engineering faculty. And faculty and staff will work to ensure that current and prospective students know about the new opportunities available to them via the expanded and enhanced high-tech programs on campus.
"The initiative is particularly exciting because it allows us to enhance our students' opportunities for future success, while helping fuel the engine of economic development in the region and state," Mash said. "As a successful regional public university, identifying opportunities that benefit our students and our region must be a critical part of our mission."
Mash said UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout and the Chippewa Valley Technical College are committed to working together to help stimulate economic growth in the region, a partnership that will serve students and the state well.
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Updated: Nov. 2, 2001