Growth of a Department

A Personal History of Computer Science at UNC-Chapel Hill

Qualitative Changes

With quantitative change came qualitative change. Maturation of the computer science discipline and its subareas also brought change. Once small, the Department has become at least medium-sized on the national scale of computer science departments. We have long since ceased to function as a monolithic unit. Instead we are made up of multiple research clusters and laboratories. A later section discusses the effect of this qualitative change on the sociology of the Department.

Over the years the Department has made a transition from state-supported to state-assisted. Even at the outset, outside financial support was critical. IBM contributed $100,000 (real money in the mid-sixties), and Fred chose to share it equally with Duke and N.C. State University to promote good relationships and to help them build their own computer science programs. A $5000 contribution from Burlington Industries was especially important in providing "lubricating oil" in the form of unrestricted funds that could be used for bringing faculty candidates and for other amenities not foreseen in state budgets.

Departmental budget data are available back to only the early 1970s. In 1972-73, state appropriations provided $0.25 million (M); contracts and grants provided another $0.25M. After 1976-77, state funding climbed steadily through 1979-80, then jumped under the influence of the newly created MCNC. By 1984-85 state funding had reached $2M and grew gently to $3M in 1993-94. Contracts and grants leapt to $1.5M in 1983-84 (boosted by the first of our large infrastructure grants) and soared to a peak of $7.5M (almost triple the state funding) in 1991-92. In that year, the Department accounted for 22 percent of the College's entire contract and grant funding. The non-state funding has since declined to just below $6M, still almost twice the current state funding. Figure 4 paints the picture.

Accompanying the growth in size and internal bureaucracy has been a growth in emphasis on research. Following national trends, the mix of graduate students has shown a decrease in those seeking the master's degree and an increase in those seeking the doctorate. Careful scheduling has permitted the Department to decrease classroom teaching loads somewhat, and a few faculty members have occasionally used their research funds to "buy out" of a teaching obligation.

Next Section: "Early Childhood: 1970-74"

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