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C'est la Z

2017 in review - Hunter Undergraduate CS

I usually don't do year in review posts. At Stuy, not much changed year after year so I never felt it worth summarizing the past and projecting the future. At Hunter, now that I'm a couple of years in, projects are really picking up steam so I think it's worth talking about them.

One of my two major missions at Hunter was to build a CS Honors program and raise the profile of Hunter's undergraduate CS program in general. Hunter had a strong CS program before I joined the team it's just that few people knew about it.

My goal is to see Hunter become the "go to" institution for undergraduate CS in New York City before my time is done.

This is an extremely important mission.

There are other strong CS options besides Hunter but compare the costs:

InstitutionAnnual Tuition
NYY Tandon$48,750

Hunter is about one tenth the cost.

True, if you're wealthy this isn't a problem and if you're at the bottom of the economic ladder you might get a full ride but if you fall into that category where you earn more than the financial aid people think is "poor" but are clearly not rich you're left in a bad place. This seems particularly true for New Yorkers as our income seems higher than that of people from other parts of the country but our cost of living is higher as well.

My wife and I are both career public educators. No one would confuse a family of two working teachers as upper class but we were granted no financial aid for our kids. The alternatives without a great public option are to have saved for our entire lives and now liquidate those savings or go into tremendous debt.

This alone makes the mission critical. Add to that the accessibility issue - elite private institutions only have to concern themselves with whatever slice of the population they choose to accept. We are charged with providing a top flight education to all - be they the high achievers, the late bloomers, the struggling students or anyone else.

So, what's happened in the past year?

First, the Daedalus honors program is developing nicely. In our first year we had a cohort of 12. This past year 27. I haven't seen the applicant pool yet - Hunter applications are open until the end of January, but I'm hoping to bring in an even larger cohort this year. I spent a good amount of time this fall visiting high schools to talk about Hunter CS and CS options in general. Not as many as I'd like but more than during year one.

We had classes, trips, and special events but more important was that the cohort is starting to form a community and the students want it to be a community that includes ALL of Hunter CS, not just the honors students.

They've started a once a week Dojo where students can work on projects and interact and we're starting an evening speaker series in the Spring.

Overall there's a vibe of excitement and an energy around Hunter CS that I've been told hasn't been there before.

In my class, I've been introducing a number of real world practices that are usually not covered in undergraduate CS and we're starting to talk about bringing those practices into the non-honors sections.

Finally, we've started to partner with the New York Tech community. We're bringing together the Hunter students and the tech professionals to raise awareness outside of Hunter of what our students can do and to best prepare our students for their next steps. These partnerships, in addition to internship possibilities have led to us planning some great things this coming semester incuding:

  • workshops such as how to work on an open source project or how to do

a code review.

  • Having industry mentors at our local Dojo sessions.
  • Mixer events to educate our students as to the variety of pathways

they can follow when they graduate.

  • and more.

This past year set the stage but there will be some challenges moving forward.

The biggest one is continued outreach to high schools. Getting to the students and their parents to let them know that we have a great program. It's also about convincing them to come to Hunter. Back in the day CUNY was "the poor man's Harvard" but open enrollment in the 1970s killed that reputation. CUNY has been making it's way back and Hunter has many excellent programs but reputations are decades in the making and at Hunter CS we're just starting to get the word out.

The other big challenge will be with time. Right now, for the most part, I'm a team of one. I have tremendous support from my colleagues but they all have their own full time obligations and the overall growth in Hunter CS has already put a strain on personnel and resources.

In spite of the challenges, I'm not complaining. This has been an exciting year for Hunter CS and an exciting year for me to be a part of it.

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