Spotlight on New CST Degree

  • A photo of professors standing in front of a smartboard displaying the CST degree information page. From left to right, stands Professor Stinchcombe, Professor Myers, and Professor McKee. Professor Myers is pointing at the board.

Spotlight on New CST Degree

Spotlight on New CST Degree

The computer science department has always prided itself on serving its students with the skills needed in the working world. This past semester, a groundbreaking new program was made available that aligns with that mantra. Not only does this new program broaden learning opportunities for Rowan students– it’s one of the first programs in the state that connects community college associate degrees to a four year degree at Rowan. 

The bachelors in Computer Systems Technology (CST) is the newest degree offered by the department. Unlike other degrees, the B.A is structured so students achieve multiple industry-specific certifications, with a strong focus on workplace knowledge over theory. The program was organized by four Rowan Professors; Professor Jack Myers, Professor Patrick McKee, Professor Fred Stinchcombe, and Professor Heng Yi Chu. The program was also developed in no small part by our own IRT staff, such as Akash Shelar and Dan Marzin. 

The idea arose when students transferring in from community colleges found that their credits didn’t transfer easily. Computer science at community college is a lot more hands-on and technically-oriented, compared to the more theoretical learning that was being offered at Rowan and other universities. These community college courses cover topics such as linux administration, networking, intrusion detection, and many others. “Historically, there's been a divide between workplace knowledge and academic qualifications,” says Stinchcombe. “This is the first degree I’ve ever come across that bridges that gap.”

The course is made up of made almost entirely of CUGS, certificates of undergrad study. CUGS are groups of classes that can be taken in any order. They cover a specific area of study, such as ethical hacking, networking, and more. Every degree at Rowan has associated CUGS, but unlike most other degree programs, CST only has one required class. Instead of course work being structured vertically– i.e, you take one course, so you can take the next one that requires that first course– students learn horizontally. They can pick a CUGS they’re interested in with no required courses acting as a barrier of entry. “Can you imagine a major with one required course? Crazy idea right? This is a radically different kind of major,” says Myers. “We’re breaking new ground!”

“Maybe you didn't go to college, maybe you wanna change your career, and not ready to take on that full degree– Take a bite of the apple. And if you take that bite, if you take those four courses, you’ve just earned yourself a CUGS. You know what else you can do? Take another bite– a second CUGS. Take a third. A fourth. And pretty soon, you’ve somehow managed to get a B.A in the area,” continues Myers.

CST is also offered completely online. Students who cannot physically come to campus can still complete this major. “You do not have to go through the traditional grind of driving to or living on campus. If you’re an adult learner, if you work a 9 to 5–  we can accommodate you,” says McKee.

The new degree is also useful to current students because it allows for more concentrated focus on a particular branches of computer science. Computing and Informatics students also now have a huge new variety of electives. Above all else, the new CUGS are tangible certificates that students can put on their resume to attract potential employers.

The CST program has been in development since January 2022, when it was only an idea. “This was an example of excellent cooperation between Rowan Global and our faculty to fast track this. This went from an idea in January ‘22 to a full blown program in fall ‘23. That's fast,” says Myers. From there, the university was able to work with the county schools to develop the program, all of which were more than excited about the prospect. “The county colleges were thirsty for an academic partner. County colleges have always been thinking about tech as a pathway, and they've never had a four year college that was interested in working with them so closely,” says Myers. The team of professors pushed through the Rowan senate for the new degree, with test students taking the course to see if it was Rowan ready. The professors working on the new degree also needed to make sure the department had the tools the courses required, like Linux servers and Azure systems. Rowan’s IRT met with the professors to help  acquire tech on the Linux side, and in the case of azure systems, the professors met with Microsoft employees to learn how this technology can benefit the degree. All of these different meetings– going through degree applications, installing new tech– allowed Rowan to become the academic partner needed to connect the county colleges to the university.

The professors are excited to see this new course grow alongside the students taking it. This new degree is available to students right now. As students spend the next two weeks deciding what courses they’ll really be taking this semester, consider replacing a dropped course with something from CST– and take a bite of the apple.

Written by Kiley Parker | Posted 1.23.24