WSU Department of Computer Science to be transferred to College of Engineering

Provost Ronald T. Brown (left) and Dean Farshad Fotouhi on a College of Engineering visit in January 2011. Photo by Rick Bielaczyc.

Effective Fall 2011, the Wayne State Department of Computer Science will be transferred from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to the College of Engineering.

Talk of such a move has been bandied about for as long as computer science has been taught at Wayne State, but no proposals were made until Jan. 11, 2011, when Ronald T. Brown, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, asked the WSU Academic Senate for feedback on behalf of the WSU administration. The proposition had become quite tenable with the provost and WSU President Allan Gilmour’s selection of Farshad Fotouhi, former chair of the WSU Department of Computer Science, as dean of the College of Engineering in February of this year.

Reasons for the transfer are many. Computer science is closely related to engineering disciplines and many colleges and universities house departments of computer science within engineering. Several faculty members in the Department of Computer Science and in Electrical and Computer Engineering have similar or complementary research interests that would benefit from a closer relationship between the two departments. By contributing to and increasing the College of Engineering’s enrollment, number of graduates, and research output, the move would strengthen the college’s national ranking and its local, national, and global visibility and impact.

With the transfer, the resulting College of Engineering and Computer Science will have approximately 108 full-time faculty positions with the promise by Brown of 16 new faculty over the next few years.

Upon receiving Brown’s proposal, the Academic Senate requested feedback from all university faculty members, especially those in the College of Engineering and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The College of Engineering Faculty Assembly Executive Committee solicited feedback from all COE faculty and staff. Nabil Sarhan, chair of the committee and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, reported 53 percent of COE faculty responded and the majority supported it. The majority of COE staff who responded also supported the move.

Several big questions about the move were answered by Fotouhi in late January, when he addressed a gathering of college faculty, students and staff. The Department of Computer Science will stay put physically in its present location in the refurbished third-floor Maccabee Building suites on Woodward Ave. The entire computer science budget will remain with the department and will therefore be moved intact into engineering, along with all of its 23 faculty and 52 graduate teaching assistant lines. Also, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will remain a separate department.

Once it received feedback from the university colleges, the Academic Senate deliberated and decided on April 7 to endorse the recommendation. The proposal was then sent to the Board of Governors who approved the provost’s request on April 20.

Provost Ronald T. Brown’s Recommendation for the Transfer of the Department of Computer Science can be found here.

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