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Past and present SE department chairs reflect on groundbreaking program

By Fran Broderick

Writing for the Association of Computing Machinery’s (ACM) Queue – a magazine dedicated to trends and challenges in professional software engineering (SE) research and practice- three Golisano College software engineering department chairs revisited the reasoning for creating the country’s first dedicated software engineering undergraduate program and what they have learned since the program’s 1996 inception.

Current department chair Jim Vallino, along with former chairs and program co-founders Michael J. Lutz and Fernando Naveda, published, “Undergraduate Software Engineering: Addressing the Needs of Professional Software Development,” in Queue’s August 2014 issue. Reflecting on why he felt that graduate programs in software engineering, intended to complement undergraduate computer science studies, were inadequate, Lutz wrote: “Consider the following: one way to teach a new driver would be to present the theory of the internal combustion engine, the drive train, and the electrical system, then turn over the keys and let the driver take the car for a spin; after the new driver has run into some lamp posts and destroyed a few mailboxes, the instructor then says, ‘Now you are ready to learn how to drive.’ From our perspective, this is analogous to the BSCS/MSSE approach to educating software developers.”

RIT’s undergraduate SE program has become immensely popular over the years thanks to the program’s focus on teamwork and preparing students for work in industry. Among the program’s first graduates was Xbox Kinect inventor Alex Kipman ’01. Since 1996, the ABET-accredited program has grown from 15 students to more than 400, and remains the largest undergraduate software engineering program in the United States. For the full article head over to ACM Queue.