Homegrown Hardware

Southeastern Louisiana has built one of the most impressive computer science programs in the state.
Homegrown

As a regional university located in Hammond, Southeastern Louisiana University seeks to serve and strengthen the region’s workforce. One way in which it does so is through its College of Science and Technology, which was created in 2005 with the specific purpose of increasing emphasis on science- and technology-related programs. As a result, SLU is now educating students that work at the region’s most important technology companies.

“It was no one person, but when our current President, Dr. John Crain, was provost, he spearheaded an effort to create a College of Science and Technology, with the specific purpose of increasing emphasis on science and technology-related programs,” says Dr. Daniel McCarthy, Dean of the College of Science and Technology at SLU. The college also was created in response to the growing need for high-tech related jobs in the region.

“Clearly, the computing and technology industries in general are a vital part of the growth of the region,” McCarthy says. “Also, it is essential that we provide opportunities for our students to participate in the high-tech workforce in our region. We view our service area to be the entire southeast of Louisiana, not just the Northshore.”

Since the College of Science and Technology was formed in 2005, SLU quickly saw an increase in enrollment. It peaked at around 2,000 students in 2019, and while numbers slightly dipped during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program continues to attract students looking for a strong foundation in STEM industries.

“In 2007, we had 222 computer science majors; now in 2022, we have 441,” McCarthy says. He adds that in the past six years, 360 students have graduated from the College of Science and Technology, and McCarthy estimates that a vast majority of them (about 90 percent) stay in the state.

“We offer a BS in computer science, a BS in information technology and we are soon going to launch a 100-percent online MS in computer networking,” McCarthy adds. “What distinguishes the undergraduate degrees is the focus on project-oriented classes, where the students work in groups with a client. This prepares them ideally for the real-world environment and is one of the reasons that our graduates are so highly sought after.”

Overall, the College of Science and Technology offers 11 high-quality degree programs that prepare students for success in the workplace or further studies. Within the college are five academic departments that offer challenging degree programs in biological sciences, chemistry, physics, computer science, industrial technology, mathematics and other related fields. Students receive unique learning experiences from supervised research to group projects that study real-world problems. The college also has a faculty that is internationally recognized, an active undergraduate research program and numerous opportunities for paid internships.

The College of Science and Technology also offers a number of special programs that expand and enhance its educational and research opportunities. These include two-year programs in drafting and design technology, occupational safety and health, and construction technology.

Another factor that has distinguished the College of Science and Technology at SLU is its direct connection to local companies. “We have had an Industrial Advisory Board for Computer Science and Information Technology for nearly 20 years,” McCarthy says. “The input from the members of this board has been invaluable and has allowed us to make sure that our curriculum meets the needs of what industry wants. Because our programs are designed with the input from industry, this helps to ensure that the Southeastern graduate is ready for the workforce.”

SLU added a 70,000-square-foot Computer Science and Technology Building in 2018. The state-of-the-art facility features current technology such as an abundance of computers with graphics processing units, and classrooms and labs that mimic the dynamic workspaces of current technology companies.

The growth of the department over the years can mostly be credited to the tireless dedication and talent of SLU’s faculty.

“The new building, which was funded from State Capital Outlay, was wonderful, but the expansion started before that,” McCarthy says. “Throughout this time, we have had many outstanding private partners. The company Envōc made a generous donation to name one of our labs, and this space is currently our most used space in the building.”

One of the most important recent initiatives within the College of Science and Technology has been to focus on freshmen’s success. The Department of Computer Science has 12 full-time faculty, and, because of the student-to-teacher ratio, educators get to know the students on a personal level and guide them to individual success. “Typical introductory classes have 20 to 24 students, and, at the upper levels, it averages closer to 15,” McCarthy says.

By making intentional efforts to educate students in computer science and technology, SLU is strengthening the talent pipeline between local students and tech companies—and in doing so, nurturing homegrown talent that can find prosperous work in their own hometowns.