Computing college idea presented

Garrett Neese/ Daily Mining Gazette Daniel Fuhrmann, chairman of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, speaks about a planned computing college Wednesday at a Michigan Technological University Senate meeting.

HOUGHTON — Michigan Technological University is planning to add a college of computing.

The Tech Senate heard the first public presentation on the college from Daniel Fuhrmann, chairman of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and member of the Data Revolution and Sensing Task Force.

The college idea had come out of a Computing Information Sciences working group last year, which identified a lack of addressing the rise of cybertechnology at Tech, Fuhrmann said.

The objective is to bring computing up to the same level of recognition and visibility as Tech’s engineering, Fuhrmann said.

“We are not as recognized and visible in that area as we are in engineering right now,” he said. “If we are going to be a technological university, there’s really two pieces of technology these days: the physical side and the cyber side, and I think both those of those pieces need to have equal recognition for us to call ourselves a technological university.”

The new college would include the Department of Computer Science, now under the College of Sciences and Arts. It would also include two School of Technology programs: the undergraduate program in computer network and system administration, and the medical informatics graduate program.

Adrienne Minerick, dean of the School of Technology, would serve as the college’s dean for one to two years.

“Practically certain,” Fuhrmann said, is that the new college would also host the interdisciplinary master’s program in data science and the Ph.D. in computational science.

It probably would also be responsible for administration of high-performance computing resources.

“I don’t know that for certain,” he said. “I just don’t imagine a scenario where that’s not true.”

Fuhrmann said he did not expect the change in administration of high-computing facilities would mean a change in access.

“There’s a connection between that facility and the Ph.D. program in computational sciences, so it seemed natural,” he said.

The task force will make its first pitch to the MTU Board of Trustees on Feb. 28. A second pitch to a review committee is planned in April.

A four-person review committee — two from the Senate, two from the President’s Council — will choose five initiatives for funding starting this fall. The other four would start in the fall 2020. The initiatives would also receive $1 million over five years.

“We will come up with a proposal where that money is an investment in the success of the college, somehow or another,” Fuhrmann said.

Although the odds are weighted in the proposal’s favor, it’s not impossible to fail, said Jackie Huntoon, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

“The intention is that all nine will be funded, but if there’s a proposal that is not sufficiently meritorious, I think the review committee or board will say, ‘Maybe this one needs to go back to the drawing board for a while,'” she said.