Marquette computer scientists awarded $1 million NSF grant to develop model for career change into computing

July 13, 2016

MILWAUKEE — Marquette University computer scientists in the Helen Way Klingler College of Arts and Sciences have received a $1 million National Science Foundation grant to help low-income, academically talented students quickly learn the skills needed to change careers into computing.

The award will build off an innovative I.T. Boot Camp Marquette computer scientists piloted in 2013, which resulted in long-term unemployed adults completing Master of Science degrees in computing.

"This significant award is a breakthrough for both computing employers and professionals looking to change into a high-demand profession," said Richard Holz, dean of the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences. "Just as important, we are looking forward to providing much-needed access to attract and develop more diverse computing professionals."

For the latest NSF grant, Marquette computer scientists will aim to develop a model for students with non-computing undergraduate degrees to cross over to work in the field of computing, which is widely seen as a profession with a high demand of employment prospects.

Experts have previously noted that without the development of new sources of computing talent, some 6,000 software-related jobs will go unfilled in Wisconsin alone by the end of the decade. More than a million computing jobs will go unfilled nationally.

The grant, which will fund a program called COSMIC (Change Opportunity – Start Masters in Computing) calls for 24 adults seeking to change professions to take part in a customized curriculum, which will provide a pathway for a rapid career transition.

The 24 participants will divide into four separate cohorts and go through the program together. They will each have a faculty advisor and peer mentor to provide support throughout the program. Thomas Kaczmarek, assistant professor in mathematics, statistics and computer science, developed the original I.T. Boot Camp, will also lead the new cohorts.

While the I.T. Boot Camp will be delivered in a face-to-face setting, the master's of science in computing programs' online offerings will provide incoming students with additional flexibility. The online offering was ranked the #20 Best Online Graduate Computer Information Technology Program by US News and World Report in 2016.

"We are thrilled to have been selected by the NSF to develop, rigorously evaluate and disseminate a novel, graduate-level model for career change [into computing] which could be adopted nationwide other universities," said Gary Krenz, professor in mathematics, statistics and computer science and the COSMIC lead principal investigator. "We view early work experience as critical to these students trying move into a new career path and we are encouraging business with open entry level positions to consider this as a recruiting opportunity and a service to the community."

Building off recent education-based NSF awards

Over the past three years, Marquette faculty have landed several large grants from the National Science Foundation. In October, 2013, Marquette was the lead recipient of a $1 million, 3-year collaboration to lead an ambitious roll out of a new 9th – and 10th– grade introductory computer science course in school districts across Wisconsin.

Marquette partnered on the project with UW-La Crosse, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the Wisconsin-Dairyland chapter of the Computer Science Teacher Association. The grant aimed to double the number of computer science teachers, including at least 60 more teachers offering a new computer science introductory course.

In July, 2014, Marquette received a $792,000 research grant to enhance teaching and learning for primary math teachers. The prestigious National Science Foundation award honors junior faculty teacher-scholars. Dr. Marta Magiera, assistant professor of mathematics, statistics and computer science in Marquette University's Klingler College of Arts and Sciences was the recipient of the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award. The award supported her research on effective ways to build a knowledge foundation in mathematics teacher preparation, specifically focusing on mathematical argumentation.

Through these efforts, Marquette is establishing itself as a national leader in computer science education with exemplary technology content, a strong attention to workforce development, and recognized leadership in program development.

For more information, contact Brian Dorrington, senior director of university communication, at (414) 288-4719.