Computer Science Department
A. Department Overview:
The mission of the Department of Computer Science at Utah State University is to maintain a program of excellence
in teaching, research, and service. At the undergraduate level, students are given the opportunity to obtain a well-
founded understanding of the principles and theories of the science of computing. The curriculum includes a
University Studies program that gives students the social, ethical, and liberal education needed to be positive
contributors to society as a whole. Students receiving a bachelor's degree in computer science are ready to enter the
work force as productive computer scientists or continue their education at the graduate level. Their foundation in
computer science is such that they can be life-long learners in their chosen field. At the graduate level, students
receive both quality and technically current instruction, and leading edge research opportunities. In addition to
responsibilities for program excellence and professional development, faculty members are committed to service
through continuing education programs and research that contributes to their field. At the department level, students,
faculty, and the program itself is continually assessed to assure that the mission and outcome objectives are being
Computer Science degrees were first offered at USU in the late 1960’s. At that time, the department was part of the
Department of Applied Statistics. Shortly thereafter, the name of the department was changed to the Department of
Applied Statistics and Computer Science. In 1982, these departments were separated into the Department of Applied
Statistics and the Department of Computer Science. Also at this time, the Computer Science Department was
granted permission to offer a Plan B MS degree along with its BS/CS. In 1986, the department received permission
to award a Plan A MS degree. Since the start of the MS/CS program, Computer Science has had the highest MS
enrollment in the College of Science.
In 2000, the department was granted permission to begin offering the PhD/CS. However, at the time, it was felt that
one additional faculty position was needed. Therefore, it was not until the addition of faculty under the Governor’s
Computer Science and Engineering Initiative (2002) that the PhD was actually begun. The department now has 17
full time tenured (8) or tenure-track faculty (9), 2 full time lecturers, and one open faculty position.
In 1998, the department sought and received CSAB accreditation for its three undergraduate option, Science,
Digital, and Information Systems. In 2001, the department was again accredited (same three options), only this time
as CSAB had become part of ABET, the accreditation was under ABET. This last Fall 2006, the ABET accrediting
team recommended accreditation of the current three options and the new Bioinformatics option. Also, during 2006,
the first two Computer Science PhD’s were granted.
Like most computer science programs, the department has seen its up’s and down’s in terms of enrollment. In the
early 1980’s there were over 400 undergraduate majors. In the early 2000’s, following the dot.com crash and
inaccurate but damaging predictions about the impacts of out-sourcing, the department again saw a decline. While
enrollment is down somewhat, with 337 current majors, the department is still the second largest department in the
The department, while now large enough to offer courses in multiple areas of computer science, focused its graduate
and research emphases in Artificial Intelligence, Bioinformatics, Parallel and Distributed Systems, and Software
Systems. External funding for research in these areas is increasing. The department’s goal in terms of external
funding is $3M-$4M within six years. This year’s growth is on target for $1M in external funding.
Currently, the major challenge that the department faces is a lack of space. As the graduate program grows, there is
simply no more space available to house graduate students. Hopefully, space can be found, because without it, the
department will not be able to reach its goal for PhD enrollment (~40), or for external funding. There have been
discussions about moving the department into a new building on the Quad; however, it appears now that the
department is no longer being considered for such a move.
As an ABET accredited program, it goes without saying that the department continually assesses its programs,
especially at the undergraduate level. Each degree has a specific set of learning outcomes and these outcomes are
measured throughout the year by multiple tools. The specific learning objectives for the various degree options can
be found at: http://digital.cs.usu.edu/files/Program_Learning_Objectives.
The specific assessment tools are as listed below. Data from these tools are available from the department’s web
1. Advanced Standing
Advanced standing is a requirement that all undergraduates must meet in order to take upper division
classes. A copy of the Advanced Standing application form is given at
http://www.cs.usu.edu/files/ADVANCED_STANDING_06.pdf. While there have been slight changes in
the requirement over the years, it has been in effect for over two decades. The advanced standing
requirement serves as one of the major assessment and quality management tools of the program. It has
four components, a coursework requirement; a GPA (Grade Point Average) requirement; a repeat limit
requirement; and an examination requirement.
2. Advanced Standing Exams
While the Advanced Standing Exams (ASE’s) are part of the overall Advanced Standing Requirement,
their importance to undergraduate assessment is such that they are described here as an individual element
of overall assessment. All students must pass the three exams comprising the ASE. These exams assess a
student’s understanding of the material presented in the core computer science courses of their first two
years in the program. In order to enroll in junior level classes (above 3000-level), all three exams must be
passed, along with all other requirements for Advanced Standing. The three exams cover the areas of
algorithms and data structures, computer organization, and software engineering. One of the assessment
improvements made this last year was to automate the exams and deliver them using inetTest. InetTest is a
USU developed assessment tool. It not only automates the process of test delivery and grading, but also
allows for a detailed examination of performance in specific test areas.
3. Alumni Newsletter (feedback)
Since 2004, the department has mailed a newsletter to its alumni on a regular basis (twice yearly). Included
with this newsletter is a request for information about their lives since graduation. While such information
is anecdotal, it does represent one more data point for assessment purposes. In general, the responses have
been positive about the program and the preparation students are being given for their careers.
4. Alumni Survey
In 2000 and 2005, alumni from the department were surveyed. In the 2000 survey, the questions were fairly
general. In the 2005 survey, a more detailed survey form was developed and sent. In general, both surveys
indicate satisfaction with the program and the preparation received by students for their careers.
5. Capstone Class
Based on an assessment of the projects developed by students in various programming classes in relation to
the stated undergraduate outcomes (2004-5), it was decided to initiate a capstone course for all computer
science majors. This course will be offered for the first time in Fall, 2006. The major goal of the capstone
class is assessment, and thus there are no specific outcome goals for the course.
The course is a one credit class requiring each student to develop a significant software product. In this
class, the student’s project and/or presentation is expected to exhibit most of the following technical and
Technical skills which should be exhibited in a capstone project
Programming skills (from CS 1700 & 1720: persistent stores, classes, objects, etc.)
Use of data structures (from CS 2200: trees, queues, hashing, etc.)
Software engineering principles (CS 2370: planning, analysis, design, user interface, implement, testing,
Machine architecture (CS 2550 & 2650: assembly language, data representations)
Operating system / network knowledge (CS 3100: concurrency, scheduling, memory management,
interrupt servicing, communications, etc.)
Programming language concepts (CS 4700: parsing, language representation, finite automata, etc.)
Communication skills which should be exhibited in a capstone project
Written communication via the following kinds of documents:
1. User guide
2. Project Plan
3. Requirements Definition
4. System Design Document
5. Implementation Documentation
6. Testing Plan and Results
6. College of Science Exit Survey
Each year the College of science surveys all graduating seniors. During the summer, the surveys are given
to the departments including a tabulation of the results. The purpose of the survey is to allow students to
assess their program. Since six departments with differing goals are involved, the individual responses are
not tailored to any single department’s outcomes. However, the information is valuable in that it gives the
department an overall image of students’ impressions of the program and how it compares to others in the
College and University. The result for the College of Science Exit Survey for each of the last four years can
be viewed on the Web at http://www.usu.edu/science/survey.htm. Included with the exit survey are several
questions requiring a written response. These responses are also reviewed at each year’s department retreat.
7. Course Examinations and Homeworks
To a large extent, the content of an examination is the responsibility of the instructor. The department does
not give common exams, although in the introductory classes (CS1400, 1410,2420), when there are
multiple sections, common assignments are given. Examinations and homework assignments represent an
important assessment tool for all courses. Examples of exams and homework assignments for all computer
Science courses will be part of the department display available to the review team during their visit. These
items are central to each instructor’s self-assessment of their course. They also have a significant impact on
the grade students receive in a class and thus impact advanced standing. Faculty course self-assessment
results are significantly influenced by the performance of students on exams and homework.
8. Department Faculty Meetings
A very important assessment tool is the discussions that take place during monthly faculty meetings and at
the yearly department retreat. In fact, while the data may come from other sources, all issues concerning the
program are discussed during these meetings and it is in these meetings that most decisions are made. The
template agenda for all such meetings is the same. During the on-site visit, copies of department meeting
minutes will be available for review.
9. Department Head Exit Survey
Each year the department head interviews most of the graduating seniors. For 2005-6, the process was
made a requirement, and thus essentially all of the graduating seniors are being interviewed. The main
purpose of the survey is to give students the opportunity to self-assess in terms of the department’s
expected outcomes. Additionally there are questions on issues such as the quality of advising, plans for the
future, and interests in other courses. There has been other data collected in previous years. The
modifications to the survey during these last two years make summarization with previous years
problematic, and so they have not been included.
10. Faculty Course Self-Assessments
While faculty have always performed an informal self-assessment of their courses, this process was not
formalized until Fall 2005. It is now required that all faculty assess every class every semester. The
assessment is done in terms of the goals or learning outcomes for each class. This material is (will be)
reviewed each year at the Fall department retreat.
11. Industrial Advisory Board
Three times in the last six years the department has invited industry representatives to campus. In general,
these are graduates of our program and/or industry recruiters. During these meetings, discussions are held
about our program, the curriculum, graduate goals, etc. Industrial advisory board meetings were held
regularly in 1998-2000. Since then, because of cost restrictions, they have been held less frequently.
12. Minimum Grade Requirements for Graduation in Computer Science
As noted in the Advanced Standing document, in addition to meeting the GPA requirements for Advanced
Standing, there are also grade requirements for graduation. Any course required in the major; this includes
required mathematics, science, economics, ethics, etc. classes; must be taken for a grade, and the minimum
grade is C-. The other GPA requirement is that there may be no more than one CS5000-level class on a
student’s transcript with a grade below C-. If a student has two such classes (grades below C-) then they
must retake one of the classes and receive a grade of at least C- in order to graduate.
13. Starting Salary Survey
In addition to alumni survey information, the department also acquires data on graduate starting salaries.
The responsibility for collecting this data rests with the department adviser. Unfortunately, the responses to
questions concerning starting salaries are often times limited.
In general, the department’s assessment of its graduates and the programs offered is that the best are able to compete
with the best from other schools. The department has the nucleus of an outstanding dedicated faculty and excellent
majors. Obviously, there are always opportunities for improvement. Some of those opportunities can only be
addressed with additional resources and/or space. Specific challenges and recommendations for improvement will
be presented in the following sections.
B. Undergraduate and Graduate Programs:
1. Degrees Offered:
The USU Computer Science department offers degrees at the Bachelors, Masters, and PhD level. At the
undergraduate level, there are 5 options:
Transcript: Computer Science – Emphasis – Science
Diploma: Bachelor of Science – Computer Science
Transcript: Computer Science – Emphasis – Digital Systems
Diploma: Bachelor of Science – Computer Science
Transcript: Computer Science – Emphasis – Information Systems
Diploma: Bachelor of Science – Computer Science
Transcript: Computer Science – Emphasis – Bioinformatics
Diploma: Bachelor of Science – Computer Science
Transcript: Computer Science – Emphasis – Information Technology
Diploma: Bachelor of Science – Computer Science
The first three options have been ABET accredited for nine years. The Bioinformatics option will be accredited
beginning July, 2007. The fifth option is not currently ABET accredited. The department will seek accreditation for
this option in the not too distant future.
At the graduate level a Master of Science (MS) degree is offered under three options:
Plan A – Thesis 6 credits, 24 credits of course work
Plan B – Report 2 credits, 32 credits of course work
Plan C – 37 credits of course work
The distribution of majors in these three plans varies from year to year, with the largest single group now being Plan
A Master of Computer Science (MCS) is another graduate degree offered in the department. This degree requires the
same total course work credits as the PhD, but does not require a dissertation. To date, there have been no students
opting for this degree. In some ways, this degree is offered for those who are unable to complete the PhD.
The PhD degree is similar in general characteristics to most such PhD’s. Students are required to complete 63 credits
of course work and 27 credits of dissertation. In order to formally begin one’s research, a student must pass a set of
written examinations and an oral examination http://www.cs.usu.edu/phd_exams_policy.html. The department, as of
Spring semester, 2007, has 19 PhD students. We are hoping to ~double this number over the next three years.
COLLEGE OF SCIENCE
DEPARTMENT OF COMPUTER SCIENCE
MAJORS (FALL SEMESTER)
Undergraduate Headcount 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Computer Science 53 72 73 225 258
Interdisciplinary Studies 3
Liberal Arts and Sciences 1
Science Undeclared 24
PreComputer Science 267 216 199
Total Undergraduate 320 288 272 253 258
Computer Science 139 146 124 82 88
Master of Computer Sciences 1 1 2 1
Computer Science Masters 10 21 20
Total Graduate 150 168 146 84 88
TOTAL MAJORS 470 456 418 337 346
% Full-time 73.8% 72.9% 72.4% 72.7% 72.5%
% Female 10.0% 8.0% 6.6% 13.4% 7.4%
% Minority 4.4% 3.5% 3.7% 4.3% 5.8%
% International 8.8% 8.0% 8.1% 7.5% 5.8%
% Full-time 50.7% 22.0% 35.6% 44.0% 55.7%
% Female 22.0% 17.9% 18.5% 20.2% 19.3%
% Minority 2.0% 1.8% 1.4% 0.0% 1.1%
% International 78.7% 73.2% 71.2% 69.0% 61.4%
STUDENT CREDIT HOURS (FALL SEMESTER) 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
1000 1962 1768 1261 942 959
2000 574 557 466 324 312
3000 377 369 362 233 216
4000 253 158 219 207 58
5000 1039 1013 783 763 705
6000 379 556 404 229 252
7000 80 155 139 158 162
TOTAL STUDENT CREDIT HOURS 4664 4576 3634 2856 2664
DEGREES (ACADEMIC YEAR) 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06
Bachelor 35 46 38 41 42
Masters 23 31 48 63 58
Post Masters (Specialist)
TOTAL DEGREES 58 77 86 104 101
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
FIRST-YEAR RETENTION RATE (FALL COHORT) 79.4% 72.0% 73.1% 62.5% 50.0%
1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
SIX-YEAR GRADUATION RATE (FALL COHORT) 40.0% 50.0% 44.4% 25.9% 48.0%
3. Analysis and Assessment:
The two areas of greatest change over the last five years have been enrollment and student credit hours
generated. The undergraduate enrollment decrease mirrors a national trend. In fact, some schools have seen
undergraduate enrollment decreases as much as 70%. The fact that computer science’s decrease is ~19%
from 2002 to 2005, speaks well of the program. At the graduate level, the large drop is due partly to visa
issues over which the department has no control, and due to a move to give emphasis to the PhD program.
Currently there are 19 students enrolled the CS/PhD program. While we do not have data for Fall 2006, it
does appear that the MS enrollment in the program is at least stable. With the emphasis on the PhD, most of
the department’s financial aid and research assistantship money is now going to the PhD program. That is
likely another reason for the decline in MS enrollment.
4. Challenges and Recommendations:
With the demographics of the State of Utah, it is not likely that significant growth in the undergraduate
program’s enrollment can occur without increasing the diversity in the program. Currently, only about 20%
of the undergraduates in the program are women. The number of minorities in the program is only about
1%. Thus, a major challenge to the department is to increase diversity at the undergraduate level. The
department has begun to build better associations with local high schools, and is also beginning an
association with a local K-8 charter school. It is also working in conjunction with other departments in the
College to build better outreach programs.
It has long been the goal of the College to develop a WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) program.
The budget shortages of late have prevented the hiring of a WISE director. It is hoped that in the near
future, funds will become available.
At the graduate level, external funding, and additional laboratory space are the most critical needs. All
faculty in the department realize that the acquisition of external funding carries significant weight in their
yearly evaluations. The issue of laboratory space is much more problematic, i.e. its solution is largely out of
the department’s hands. Simply stated, a new building or new space is needed.
COLLEGE OF SCIENCE
DEPARTMENT OF COMPUTER SCIENCE
FULL-TIME FACULTY 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Headcount 15 17 17 19
% Female 26.7% 23.5% 23.5% 15.8%
% Minority 6.7% 11.8% 11.8% 15.8%
Rank 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Professor 3 3 2 3
Associate Professor 8 8 8 7
Assistant Professor 2 4 4 7
Lecturer 2 2 3 2
PERCENT OF FACULTY WITH TERMINAL 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
DEGREES* 86.7% 88.2% 82.4% 89.5%
* Analysis based on full-time instructional faculty.
2. Research/creative activity productivity:
Since 2001, with the addition of new untenured faculty, and the retirement of several faculty members whose
emphasis was teaching, the creative activity in the department has increased significantly. In 2001, the number of
publications/faculty member/year was <1. For 2006 it was ~2. Over time, we expect this number to increase. During
FY 2005-6, the total external funds received were ~$800K. At month 6 of FY2006-7 the total of external grants was
~$650K. The goal for FY2010-11 is $2M. We believe that this goal will be met.
3. Extension Service productivity:
Since the 1970’s the department has offered course work at various extension (Distance) sites. In 1990, a distance-
based MS/CS was offered at Hill Air Force Base (Ogden). In 1998, this program was implemented as a state-wide
satellite-based MS degree. In 2000, a BS/CS at selected distance sites was begun. At present, an average of five
MS/CS degrees per year are awarded through this program. At the BS level, <1/year BS/CS degrees are awarded.
With possible expansion of the program to Salt Lake Community College, Snow College, and College of Eastern
Utah, we expect the number of degrees awarded at both levels will increase. We also expect the increasing need for
CS graduates will positively impact the number of majors at the distance sites. Furthermore, there is a likelihood that
some degrees will be offered internationally. This also will increase the number of distance graduates.
4. Analysis and Assessment:
The current size (including the one open position) of the department is sufficient to meet the needs of the
undergraduate and graduate programs. Certainly, additional faculty would improve the total dollars generated
externally, but teaching needs are being met. The Distance program has the potential to increase significantly in size.
Such an increase will likely require the hiring of additional faculty sited at the branch campuses.
5. Challenges and Recommendations:
As noted earlier, the major challenge for faculty is the need for additional space, especially laboratory space. At
present there is simply no additional space. This is forcing the department in some instances to divide current space
among competing needs, giving some to all, but an adequate amount to none. Simply stated, the department needs
D. Support Services:
The department currently has four full time staff personnel. In the main office, there is an administrative assistant
(Tracie Pace), and an accounting assistant (Genie Hansen). The department also has a full time computer technician
(Robert Wood), and a Computer and Information Literacy (CIL) lab manager (Robert Barton). In addition to the
E&G funding for the CIL manager, a $30 fee is assessed to each new USU student to cover the remaining costs of
implementing the CIL general education requirement. The department head has 50% of their time allocated for
administration and an associate department head receives one month of salary for administration. The department
also manages 3 public access computer labs (~100 systems). The funding for these labs comes through the student
computer fee. The current budget is $90K/year. The department also has an operating budget of $64K and a TA
budget of $180K.
2. Analysis and assessment:
The recent hiring of an accounting assistant has helped significantly with budgeting oversight needs. However, the
greatest needs of the department in terms of staff or support levels are additional operating and TA funds. There are
approximately 175 computers owned by the department. The cost of maintaining and replacing these systems on a
timely basis exceeds the department’s operating budget. In order to supplement its operating budget, the department
has been forced to place additional fees on several of its classes, and it has not been able to replace equipment as
frequently as desired.
The lack of adequate TA funds has meant that the department has few true teaching assistants. In most cases lab
instructors, graders, and tutor/recitation leaders are being hired on an hourly basis at a relatively low salary. In fact,
if the proposed Federal minimum wage increase is implemented, the department will have to raise these wages.
Without adequate TA funds, the department is often unable to attract graduate students of the quality it would desire.
US nationals are extremely difficult to attract since the competition for them is so keen.
3. Challenges and recommendations:
The simplest solution to solve the challenges of inadequate operating and TA funds is more funding from the State.
While some increase may occur, any increase is likely to be inadequate. Thus, other sources of funding are needed.
For TA funds, the most likely new source will be research grants. This will not directly address the need for more
TA funds, but it will address the need to attract graduate students of the highest quality. The department portion of
the overhead funds coming from grants monies would allow for some help in the hiring of TA’s. Finally, there is the
possibility that the offering of graduate programs abroad will result in an increase in funding to the department.
While somewhat tenuous, the current funding model would increase discretionary funding to the department, and
thus enable it to increase is TA stipends.