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Earlier this week, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) approved the move to establish the commonwealth’s first-ever school of computing. The formation of a contemporary School of Computing (SoC)—the first in the Commonwealth of Virginia—provides the university with unprecedented opportunities both to establish computing as one of its strategic differentiators and to assume a leadership role in shaping the future of this growing discipline.
The new school will be housed with the existing Volgenau School of Engineering in George Mason University’s newly created College of Engineering and Computing.
“Launching the new School of Computing will strengthen Mason’s leadership position in the computing fields in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and will provide a new framework to convene Mason researchers and educators from every academic unit for multidisciplinary collaborations involving computing,” says Dean Ken Ball of the College of Engineering and Computing. “The change also provides a stronger identity for our core SoC departments, elevating our computing brand for prospective students looking to enroll in our majors and for research partners looking to collaborate with us.”
“As technology transforms our world on all levels, I am confident that the School of Computing will provide an important platform for Mason to continue leading in this field throughout the region and across the nation,” says Provost and Executive Vice President Mark Ginsberg. “The new School of Computing is where top researchers will shape the way the we use technology and where Mason students will learn how digital-age tools enrich their lives and careers while enhancing the economic development of our community.”
Three departments, Computer Science, Information Sciences and Technology, and Statistics will relocate from the Volgenau School of Engineering and form the core of the SoC. The change formalizes an academic unit designed to coordinate similar disciplinary areas, related initiatives, research activities, and academic and student services. It will provide a discrete location to house these departments that focus on academic programming and research in computing.
“The creation of the School of Computing presents many exciting opportunities for the faculty,” says Sanjeev Setia, interim divisional dean for the SoC. “The Tech Talent Investment Pipeline [TTIP] funding from the state of Virginia, the creation of the IDIA and expansion of the Arlington Campus, and the growing tech sector in Northern Virginia hastened this effort. We need to seize this opportunity to elevate the quality and reputation of the already fine programs and departments in the SoC.”
The latest figures released by the National Science Foundation (NSF) show Mason’s national profile continues to rise through solid research funding in Computer and Information Sciences, which ranked 12th among all universities, 8th among public institutions and No. 1 in Virginia.
Now that the school is approved, the administration will actively pursue building bridges between the SoC and other colleges/schools on campus both through the creation of multidisciplinary programs and through joint faculty appointments and initiatives such as the ongoing TTIP-thematic faculty hiring initiative.
The school’s leadership will explore the curricula of programs offered by the SoC’s departments and search for ways to increase collaboration, reduce duplication, and in general improve the quality of the programs.
Setia says he wants work with departments in the SoC to create a Broadening Participation in Computing plan for the school and its constituent departments and start the work needed to implement it.
“Computing is everywhere in contemporary society. Our students and faculty have a unique opportunity to discover new and exciting ways to make this discipline relevant to our world,” Setia says.