Since its humble beginnings as an academic department nearly three decades ago, the University’s School of Computer and Information Sciences has grown in size and reputation as a leader in computing technology. Both locally and nationally, the school continues to play an important role in the education of students in this competitive, quickly evolving field.
CIS Dean Dr. David L. Feinstein has spent more than 45 years in a field that barely existed when he was a college student. In the early years of his career, he was convinced that computing technology would one day revolutionize the day-to-day lives of people around the world.
Today, although great progress has been made, he feels the surface has just been scratched regarding what technology will do for lives in the future.
“As the computer permeates business, education, and medical and biological sciences, we are going to have more dependency on the computer for our life functions,” Feinstein said.
Recounting the evolution of computing education at USA, Feinstein explained that CIS was initially a computer science major in the College of Arts and Sciences that grew over a five-year period from a department into a division, then into a school in 1990. President Gordon Moulton is the founding dean.
Feinstein, who has served as dean of CIS for more than 10 years at the University, will return to his first passion of full-time teaching and research in June. He reflected fondly on his 28-year career in USA CIS, recalling the excitement he felt when he joined as the new department’s first chair.
“When I was hired as chair in what was then the department of CIS back in the fall of 1980, I was teaching four courses a quarter, writing curriculum for the school, and designing majors,” Feinstein said. “I was able to hire Drs. Bart Longenecker and Roy Daigle, now professors of CIS, as two of the first faculty.”
Since its creation, the School of Computer and Information Sciences and its instructional programs have become internationally recognized for their excellence. In March of this year, USA CIS received unanimous approval from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education to begin offering three new bachelor’s degree programs in computer science, information systems, and information technology. USA CIS is the only school in the nation accredited for all three degrees. To date, the school has awarded more than 1,800 degrees.
Feinstein, a recipient of numerous awards including Educator of the Year from the Association for Information Technology Professionals, made a statement in the River Falls Journal in 1973 about the future of computers and education that has proven true today: “Nothing since the Gutenberg Printing Press will revolutionize education as much as the computer.”
At that time Feinstein, was convinced that computing technology would one day revolutionize all aspects of life. Today, he’s confident that technology will continue to improve individual quality of life and help solve societal issues, from providing more sophisticated robotic prosthetics for limbs to meeting agricultural needs that address famine in undeveloped countries.
“It’s interesting for me to reflect back on the fact that when I made that statement in 1973, very few people had access to computers,” Feinstein said. “In contrast, virtually everybody in the developed world today has contact with computing in all aspects of their lives.
“In terms of the profession,” he said, “the computing technology field now offers more career opportunities and flexibility than ever before in our history.
“Although computer science education at the University has undergone an evolution of its own over the years, the school’s mission has remained the same--to provide the best possible education for students in this very exciting, rapidly evolving field and to prepare them to compete for the numerous career opportunities that are increasingly available to them.”