College of Professional Studies’ IT program grows fourfold over first decade

Media Credit: File Photo by Connor Witschonke | Staff Photographer

About 70 students are currently enrolled in the undergraduate program for information technology, compared to 10 students a decade ago.

As the information technology program nears a decade, faculty say the program has adapted to advancements in technology and prepared its students for careers in the field.

The interdisciplinary IT bachelor’s degree completion program, which has quadrupled its enrollment over the past decade, is designed for community college graduates and working professionals seeking to complete their bachelor’s degrees. Officials said the program has grown and evolved as technology has changed over the past 10 years.

Christopher Deering, the interim dean of CPS, said the program – originally called the Integrated Information, Science and Technology Program – has grown from 12 students in the original cohort in 2010 to more than 70 students enrolled today. He said the program has shifted throughout its tenure to place a greater emphasis on data analytics and critical thinking skills.

“The interdisciplinary curriculum focuses upon technology trends, scientific principles and business practices as they relate to information technology,” Deering said in an email.

He said students in the program primarily come from community colleges in northern Virginia. Deering said officials work “closely” with community colleges “across the region” to promote the program and to attract qualified prospective students to join the program.

He said the changes to the program in recent years, like the program’s new name, better reflect the goals students set for themselves and the skills they need in their future careers.

“The program’s rebranding, as Information Technology, is intended to better align with our students’ interests and capture a broader sense of the technology field,” Deering said.

Sara Hooshangi – the program director for Virginia Tech’s master of engineering degree in computer science who served as the information technology program’s first director until Jan. 1 – said she expects student interest in the program to increase in upcoming years as the IT industry in the D.C. region continues to grow.

“As the region gets ready for the next wave of tech industry expansions and an increase in employment opportunities in the tech field, there is tremendous opportunity to tap into the local talent market and prepare community college graduates for great careers,” she said in an email.

Joseph Garrett, the program’s interim director, said the market for IT managers is expected to increase by 18 percent moving forward, adding that he expects employment in other IT sectors to grow by at least the same rate – a positive sign for students enrolled in the program.

“I think that bodes well for the region especially with Amazon and others coming in,” Garrett said. “There’s going to be a fueled need for IT people.”

Garrett said he has been teaching with the program since 2015, when Hooshangi recruited him. He said Hooshangi left the program this year “in a very good shape.”

“We have to see where the IT industry needs are changing and then future changes that we might make to our program would need to consider what those needs are and what our program can do to support those needs,” Garrett said. “This would be my view of what a vibrant program would look like.”

He said the program differs from many others at GW because many of the students enrolled often already have employment and are married but are seeking an opportunity to advance further in the workplace.

“It’s exciting to be involved with students like that because this program really helps them as they finish their degree,” he said. “They have a two-year degree but as they work toward a four-year degree, it’s very good for them to get this degree that GW is offering them, for them to proceed in the IT field.”

Garrett said a search committee for the program’s future director is in the interviewing stage for the position. He said candidates applying for the position should have a background in both IT and teaching because the program requires the director to teach at least one course.

“I’m excited for this program, I think it’s a very interesting program,” Garrett said. “I think it’s a needed program.”

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