Growth of a Department

A Personal History of Computer Science at UNC-Chapel Hill

Guiding Philosophy

Fred developed for the Department a philosophy based on the notion of effort multiplier. A question central to any enterprise, and particularly an educational one, is how it can have an effect. Fred asked how to multiply the effort put into the Department into maximum influence on the profession, and maximum benefit to the State of North Carolina and to the larger community. He concluded that instead of educating the workers, we should teach the teachers who would educate the workers and prepare the professional computer scientists who would lead them.

This conclusion led immediately to an emphasis on performing research and on offering only graduate degree programs. In this Fred followed the model already seen in the department of Statistics. Although only the master's degree was authorized initially (Board of Higher Education, 19 March 1965), doctoral studies were planned from the outset.

Although the baccalaureate degree was being widely promoted in the U.S. as the first professional degree, Fred considered a master's degree more suitable to that purpose and designed a master's degree program oriented to professional practice. Almost all of the content of our master's program is included in our doctoral program on the grounds that the teachers and leaders will need to know most of what their students are to learn and their employees are to perform.

Although we have never offered a B.S. in computer science, there has existed since 1971 a computer science option in the B.S. Curriculum in Mathematical Sciences and since 1989 a computer science option in the B.S. Curriculum in Applied Sciences. We have from the outset also offered service courses, beginning with an introduction to computer programming.

For a small, new department to perform significant research, and to attract graduate students in competition with larger and older programs, Fred judged it prudent to establish research emphases that distinguished the Department from its competitors. Unlike programs derived from mathematics, we would not emphasize numerical analysis. (Later, however, we did move strongly into issues of error and efficiency in numeric computation.) Unlike programs derived from electrical engineering, we would not emphasize hardware. And unlike programs derived from business and management, we would not emphasize business data processing. Rather than dictate what we would in fact emphasize, Fred planned initially to attract the strongest faculty members he could, and let their strengths become the Department's.

Next Section: "Infancy: 1964-67"

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