A native of Fresno, Calif., fourth-year student Nathan Green says adjusting to winters in Rochester is a minor obstacle compared to the challenges presented by his computer science curriculum. But he's definitely not complaining.
"Every project is a puzzle to be solved," explains Green, "and it's a lot of fun. There can be a lot of frustration with CS projects, but when you succeed, you succeed big."
Perhaps it's that level of fulfillment that consistently makes computer science the hottest academic program at RIT, based on total enrollment. At the start of fall quarter, 648 undergraduates were studying CS in the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences. That's nearly 200 students more than mechanical engineering technology, RIT's second most heavily enrolled program. Information technology, mechanical engineering, and applied networking and system administration round out the top five.
These are among the so-called STEM disciplines, related to science, technology, engineering and math. Jeremy Haefner, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, says STEM remains the "cornerstone" of RIT's academic experience. That commitment is driving the recent development of new STEM programs in clinical research management, biomedical engineering and chemical engineering. New undergraduate degrees in philosophy and journalism have also been added in the past year.
Haefner is also quick to point out the popularity and success of programs in the creative arts. The College of Imaging Arts and Sciences attracts top-performing undergraduate and graduate students to RIT into nationally ranked programs including design, photography and glass.
At the graduate level, business administration, offered through RIT's E. Philip Saunders College of Business, has the largest enrollment, followed by computer science and information technology. Criminal justice is on tap to become RIT's newest master's degree. Expanding the university's commitment to graduate studies is a high priority.
"The growth of RIT's graduate studies portfolio, particularly our Ph.D. programs, represents a significant leap toward building our national reputation," states Haefner. "As they take off, RIT really takes off."
RIT recently launched sustainability as the university's sixth doctoral degree, joining existing doctorate programs in astrophysics, color science, computing and information sciences, imaging science and microsystems engineering.
Still, RIT administrators recognize many good students arrive on campus not knowing what discipline to pursue. For these individuals, planning is underway for the development of a "University Studies" program. "Its objective is to provide a programmatic framework that will welcome the potential or current RIT student who is not certain about what field to choose or the student who might need to change majors," Haefner explains.
The provost believes University Studies is critical to attracting more top-tier students to RIT while also helping to retain those individuals already on campus.
Ultimately, for many, the choice of program comes down to career prospects. Nathan Green, who is pursuing a dual B.S./M.S. degree, has already enjoyed the opportunity to participate in several co-ops. He feels good about his selection.
"Getting out of RIT with a degree in computer science, I'm not worried about getting a job."
Paul Stella '03