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How Newberry College Brought Back Computer Science

February 13, 2023

College Background

Newberry College, located in South Carolina, is a four-year private institution that offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees and enrolls about 1,300 undergraduate students annually. In Fall 2020, Newberry reinstated a computer science major to meet regional labor market demands. In an effort to improve and grow the major, Newberry partnered with Rize and the LCMC to increase the breadth of curriculum and the depth of student support available.

It is no secret that computer science (CS) is one of the most popular bachelor’s degrees amongst students and employers. CS degree completions have increased by 4.5x in the last 10 years to 53,458 nationally (Emsi Burning Glass). 

However, what may be less obvious is how challenging running an effective CS program can be, particularly at a small college. Updating curriculum to reflect constantly evolving labor market needs is demanding enough, but it is also difficult to retain faculty talent given how lucrative the field is.

According to research “Drop rates are as high as 30 to 40% are reported by many institutions, and are rapidly becoming the norm for computer science programs.”  

Like many of their peers, Newberry faced similar challenges as those listed above. In 2021, Newberry took an innovative approach to enhance their computer science program with Rize in two key ways:

  • Providing students with access to more cutting-edge courses and expert CS faculty through the LCMC
  • Collaborating with Rize on student success to improve degree completion and student outcomes

Expanding Access for Newberry Students

For Dr. Bret Clark, Chair of the Science and Mathematics Department, a key goal of the re-designed CS major was career orientation that would prepare graduates for the workforce. Working with the team at Rize, Dr. Clark and Newberry were able to integrate a set of technical CS courses that would complement the existing liberal arts and mathematics curriculum at Newberry.

Importantly for Newberry, these LCMC courses were designed in collaboration with subject matter experts, like Google and Dr. Charles Severance from the University of Michigan, who review the curriculum annually to ensure labor market relevance. Of equal importance, the courses are all taught by qualified instructors from another accredited LCMC institution. For many smaller departments, students may only engage with one or two faculty members throughout their CS program. The LCMC allows Newberry students to broaden their network of peers and increase their exposure to high-quality, caring faculty.

By leveraging Rize and the LCMC, Newberry maintained their unique stamp on the CS degree while also expanding access to a wider range of courses, career opportunities, subject matter experts and qualified instructors.

Collaborative Student Success

While working with a consortium partner can expand access to great courses and instructors, a potential downside is a lack of consistent quality or communication that makes it challenging for advisors to support students.

This is especially true with a rigorous program like CS. Given the attrition challenges many CS programs face, Newberry saw an opportunity to collaborate with Rize to enhance the consistency of course operations and student outcome communication.

Dr. Sarah Frederickson, Assistant Professor in Mathematics, who serves as an on-campus advisor to CS students, uses Rize’s student support tools to optimize her student advising. Three times each semester, Dr. Frederickson receives a student success report from Rize identifying students' varying levels of engagement in their LCMC courses. She uses the report frequently, “I personally reach out to every student one-on-one that is not logging in via email and text message to find out why they are not engaging. If I see a pattern of disengagement and struggle academically, I ask an academic coach on campus to reach out to them in addition to me.” The consistency provided by the Rize team, both in terms of curriculum and student support, helps Dr. Frederickson confidently identify and support students who may need assistance.

“I personally reach out to every student one-on-one that is not logging in via email and text message to find out why they are not engaging.”

With the added layer of Rize support, faculty and advisors at the home institution can promote student success while the instructors at the teaching institution can focus on student engagement.

Today, Newberry students have reported in student surveys that the support they receive from Rize and the instructors from peer teaching institutions is timely and effective. Looking to the future, Rize and Newberry will continue to collaborate to ensure the computer science program delivers both innovative, career-oriented curriculum and the dedicated student support necessary to help students thrive.

“I sincerely appreciate all you are doing for our students! We make a difference, sometimes one student at a time”

If you’re interested in learning more about the Rize Computer Science program or Newberry’s story, please contact Charlie Anastasi at canastasi@rize.education.

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