CS Department hires eight faculty members to meet an increasing number of freshmen


Kenyon Edmond

Portrait of new Computer Science Professor, Dr. Albert Harris

By Jie Jie Wang, Contributing writer

The Department of Computer Science welcomed eight new faculty members this fall under the pressure of an increasing number of freshmen.

“We see our applications increase dramatically from year-to-year,” said Colin Robertson, assistant director of communications for computer science. “This fall, we have over 5,000 applications just for computer science. So obviously we need more faculties to teach them.”

Robertson said the overall enrollment in Computer Science this year is 1,797, but there are only 80 full-time faculty members right now.

“The numbers of new faculties that we need to hire varies year-to-year,” Robertson said. “In 2016, we hired 10, and seven for 2015. At all the departments on campus, we might be the one who has been seen the most demand from students. The number of students increases a lot compared a couple years ago.”

Due to the increase of students and therefore the increase of classes, the demand for faculty went up.

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    “New faculties are now teaching a large range of undergraduate courses. We do need faculties to teach the middle-level courses as well,” Roberson said.

    Albert Harris, one of the eight new faculty members, has six hundred students in his class.

    “It’s a big class,” Harris said. “And we are lucky here. It’s a big department and it’s well-funded. We have a lot of toys to play with. It’s easy to get equipment.”

    Harris earned his doctorate from the University in 2006.

    “It’s nice to be back,” Harris said. “The offer is good. I like the city and I feel it’s comfortable. Also, it’s a good school.”

    Geoffrey Challen, one of the eight new faculty members, is teaching an intro class with almost eight hundred students.

    “I interviewed at seven or eight different schools before I decided to accept the job here, and of all the places I felt like Illinois was the one that was embracing the most growth in the field,” Challen said. “ I want to teach a lot of people about computer science, that’s something I find very exciting.”

    Challen said he is looking forward to teaching a larger course.

    Challen has taught large-scale flipped courses on the internet, and he said he thinks it’s a great experience for him.

    “It was an example of courses that needed like three or four more years,” Challen said. “If we want higher education to work in this country, we have to be able to teach students in large groups. Otherwise either college is going to be so expensive that no one is going to be able to go.”

    Challen’s focus is to build computer systems that improve teaching and learning — both in computer science and across other disciplines.

    “The demand for computer science is growing everywhere but the attitude about computer science is very different when you go from university to university,” Challen said. “Illinois has an overall very positive attitude about the field, so that’s good.”

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