This August marked the beginning of a new 2015 academic year for UT Dallas and the Computer Department. The UT Dallas Computer Science department welcomed 2,876 students, including 466 computer science/software engineering freshmen, with activities and events as a way to welcome and familiarize students with the UT Dallas CS community.
The CS/SE related activities and events that were held in August and September included Graduate Student Orientation (August 19th), Move-in Day (August 20th), First Year CS/SE Female Dinner (September 8th), PhD Female Luncheon (September 11th), CS 1st Year Dinners (September 14th-17th), and the CS Outreach Welcome Lunch series (August 24th– September 25th).
On August 19th, the Department held its orientation/registration for Fall 2015 incoming new graduate students. The graduate student orientation was presided over by Prof. Shyam Karrah, Director of CS Graduate Studies, and Prof. B. Prabhakaran, Director of the CS PhD program. The event started by a welcome address by Dr. Gopal Gupta, UT Dallas CS Department Head, who informed the students about the CS Department’s accomplishments in research, teaching, service and outreach and gave students advice on how to succeed in their graduate studies. Prof. Shyam Karrah gave an extensive description of all the options the MS students have with respect to their graduate degree. He also went over all the do’s and don’ts of the graduate program. Dr. Prabhakaran conducted a similar separate session for the 33 new PhD students who started in the program. The event concluded with approximately all 400 students getting advice on which courses to take and then getting registered. Faculty advisors present included Drs. Balaji Raghavachari, R. Chandrasekaran, Gopal Gupta, Kang Zhang, Ding Zhu Du, Ovidiu Daescu, D.T. Huynh, Eric Wong, Murat Kantarcioglu, Nicholas Ruozzi, Richard Min, Pushpa Kumar, and Professor Tim Farage. Students were registered into courses by the CS Graduate Staff: Eric Moden, Emily Donaldson, Doug Hyde and Rachel Spataro, along with several staff members from the registrar’s office who joined to help.
Move-In day, August 20th, marked the day when incoming CS/SE freshmen moved into the residential halls to begin their college life, gain a newfound sense of independence, and settle into their new home away from home. Residential Hall West is a dedicated facility that houses freshmen students in Living Learning Communities (LLC). LLCs are groups of freshmen students who live in the same wing and take classes together in computer science, engineering, pre-health, arts and technology, and business. The third and fourth floors house new freshmen computer science students.
UT Dallas student volunteers and Computer Science faculty welcomed both students and their parents as they moved their belongings into the residential halls. UT Dallas CS Professors Ivor Page, John Cole, Les Arnold, Don Vogel, and Chris Davis, were on hand to help incoming CS freshmen find their dorm rooms and answer any questions the students or the parents had.
After the students had settled into their rooms, a large group of parents came together to hear Dr. Gopal Gupta, UT Dallas Computer Science Department head, welcome them to the UT Dallas campus. In his talk Dr. Gupta told the audience that the CS Department was in record territory when it came to student body size and faculty size. “The CS Department has been growing rapidly and the faculty is working hard to cope with this growth while maintaining excellence in research, teaching and service,” he noted. “The CS Department matched this record growth in size with 2014-15 becoming the 2nd best year for extramural research funding with grants totaling more than $10 million” he added. The parents were introduced to UT Dallas CS Professors Drs. Ovidiu Daescu, Charles Shields, Ivor Page, John Cole, Les Arnold, Don Vogel, and Chris Davis. Dr. Gupta informed the parents of the many advantages that their students would be benefitting from by being part of the UT Dallas Computer Science department, including clubs, placement after graduation, and the sharing in the accomplishments of the department.
On September 8th, the First Year CS/SE Female dinner took place. This event initially began as a result of the UT Dallas CS department membership in the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Academic Alliance. Both the NCWIT and the NCWIT Academic Alliance strives to increase the number of women in technology and computing and to do so they hold events for female students in CS/SE for the students can connect with each other and build a sense of community.
This year’s dinner was co-hosted by the student organization Women Who Compute (WWC) as a part of their continued effort to connect students through social events and service projects. CS Faculty and Staff, Drs. Janell Straach, Linda Morales, and Mary Vogel, joined a total of twenty-nine CS/SE students for a night of dinner and crafts. Together with the LLC staff, the students made their own inspiration jars – decorated mason jars and filled with notes of positivity and motivation that would last them throughout the semester and give them a boost of positivity during difficult times. Dr. Straach notes, “It’s important for women in CS to have a sense of community with other women in the field. This dinner is always a great chance for our first year students to create relationships that will help them during college and beyond through community support. It is important to know that you’re not alone in a male dominated field.”
The Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and the UT Dallas Computer Science both strive to promote a sense of community amongst its large student body. On September 11th, women who are currently pursuing their PhD’s through the UT Dallas Computer Science department and other programs offered by the Erik Jonsson School were invited to the PhD Female Luncheon. Female PhD students came to hear a former UT Dallas CS PhD graduate, Qiong Zhang, who currently works at Fujitsu Laboratories of America (FLA) in Network Systems Innovations Group (NSIG), give a speech on the importance of what they are pursuing and the importance of community amongst the female PhD population. She shared with the students her experiences about her time working on her PhD in the UT Dallas CS department.
The luncheon provided an opportunity for the students to connect with female professors and prominent figures at UT Dallas and the CS department as a way to invoke a sense of community. Those attending spoke about the importance of women in the technology industry, making their voices heard, and how to stay motivated. Dr. Ranran Feng, senior lecturer thought that attending the luncheon is very encouraging. “I have been attending the PhD female luncheon since 2013 when I was still a PhD student and now I am back as a teacher. During my PhD education I encountered many difficulties – improving my credentials, finding balances between study and other activities… which made it real tough to hang on at times. Thanks to the luncheon I learned a lot from sharing with other female PhD fellow students, and it was encouraging to listen to stories from female PhD professionals
The event was organized by UT Dallas PhD graduates Drs. Linda Morales and Janell Straach, with the assistance of Mary Vogel. Attending the luncheon from the UT Dallas faculty and staff were Drs. Gopal Gupta, Mark Spong (Dean of the Erik Jonsson School), Inga Musselman (senior Vice Provost and Acting Provost), Austin J. Cunningham (Dean of Graduate Studies), Shyam Karrah, Ovidiu Daescu, Mehra N. Borazjany, Lily Wu, Pushpa Kumar, Ranran Feng, Ebru Çankaya, and Karen Doore.
The new academic year brought with it 466 CS and SE freshmen students. As a way to introduce the new students to faculty members and student organizations, for the second year, the CS department offered a series of Freshman Dinner(s) during the first week of school. There were two sessions each night of the week with approximately 60 students in each group who were invited to learn about the department, talk to clubs, and ask the faculty questions, and eat pizza!
Attending faculty included Drs. John Cole, Don Vogel, Michael Christiansen, Les Arnold, Janell Straach, Ivor Page, Nhut Nguyen, Linda Morales, Neeraj K. Gupta, Mark Paulk, Benjamin Raichel, Mehra N. Borazjany, Vibhav Gogate, Chris Davis, Nicholas R. Ruozzi, Sergey Bereg, Rym Wenkstern, Charles Shields, Dung T. Huynh, Jey Veerasamy, Anurag Nagar, and Ovidiu Daescu. After the students had spoken to the faculty members, they had a chance to talk to CS student organizations and their representatives, including Women Who Compute (WWC), HackersUTD, and the Linux Users at UTD club.
At the end of the event, Dr. Gopal Gupta described the research being done in the UT Dallas CS department, what students will learn through the courses offered by the CS department, what opportunities are offered to them inside and outside the classrooms, and some valuable advice on how to succeed in the program.
As part of the department’s year-long commitment to student outreach, Dr. Jey Veerasamy, director of the Center for Computer Science Education & Outreach (CCSEO), supports numerous events, lunches, and clubs. Students can look forward to the CS Technical Welcome Lunch Series featuring UT Dallas CS department Alumni such as Shrinath Parikh of AT&T who came and spoke to students on August 24th about the importance of Big Data. Students can also connect with their community by joining such clubs as UT Dallas Association for Computer Machinery (ACM), Women Who Compute, UT Dallas Computer Security Group (UTD CSG), MakerSpace, and Linux Users at UTD. Events like these and other that go on throughout the year serve to build a strong community amongst UT Dallas CS/SE and the CS Department faculty/staff.
First Year CS/SE Female Dinner
CS 1st Year Dinners
About the UT Dallas Computer Science Department
The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 1,600 bachelor’s-degree students, more than 1,100 master’s students, 160 PhD students, and 80 faculty members, as of Fall 2015. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.