Monday, January 07, 2008

Mims has seen tremendous growth in computer science

By Courtney Westlake

Dr. Ted Mims first started out his career in computer science working with paper tape, and then punched cards. The next years brought the era of terminals before desktop computers and laptops finally began serving the needs and wants of the general public and causing great impact in the field of computer science.

Mims came to UIS in 1990 and now serves as not only a professor of computer science, but as the chair of the computer science department. Mims' college studies originally focused on math, but after teaching math at the high school level, he eventually made the switch to the field of computer science.

After obtaining a master's and Ph.D. in computer science and teaching at Louisiana State and Nicholls State universities, Mims moved to Springfield to be part of the computer science department here at UIS, in which student enrollment has skyrocketed.

"In 1990, we had approximately 45 graduates and 75 undergraduates," Mims said. "In the spring semester of 2007, we had 350 graduate students and 200 undergraduates. So we've had more than 500 percent growth since 1990."

Mims said he enjoys working with both the faculty and the students within the program.

"I really like the faculty; they're energetic and enthusiastic about teaching," he said. "We have excellent students. When I came here, the majority of our students were adult students in their 30's with fulltime jobs. Now we also have evolved into admitting lower division students who are younger, less than 30 years old."

Three years ago, the computer science online program began bringing in more non-traditional working students who hail from all over the country. Nationwide enrollment in computer science has dropped anywhere from 30 to 60 percent, but in adding an online program, enrollment has increased 50 percent at UIS, Mims said.

"The online program brought students," he said. "Those are some of the brighter students we have; they are working for companies in the aerospace industry and major computer corporations."

As for the future of the field of computer science, Mims anticipates that security will be an area of interest and that online classes will continue to flourish.

"It seems younger students want to take more online classes than classes on campus," he said. "And I think that the programming will remain but language will change. We teach Java now, but it will be some other language in a few years from now."

Several students in UIS' computer science program have been recognized for national awards, and partnerships that have been recently developed are also an asset to the program. In 2007, for example, a partnership was developed with State Farm Insurance to make UIS the 18th university from which State Farm recruits nationally.

"This opportunity allows our students to do internships at State Farm, and several students of ours have been hired for fulltime positions with them," he said. "So that's been a great partnership, and we look to expand those partnerships with other companies."