International master's program for computer science

July 2, 2003

UW-Platteville and University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule) in Darmstadt, Germany, will offer a joint international master's program for computer science. In May, UWP Chancellor David Markee (left) and Fachhochschule Director Christoph Wentzel (right) signed the agreement.

PLATTEVILLE - While many people who travel outside the country do so primarily to sightsee and take in another culture, University of Wisconsin-Platteville computer science students will now be able to earn a degree while they're at it.

UWP Chancellor David Markee signed an agreement May 27 with the University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule) in Darmstadt, Germany, to offer a joint international master's (JIM) degree for computer science.

"This unique program gives students from both institutions that extra educational experience which places them a step ahead as they complete this degree program and embark on their careers," Markee said.

Under the agreement, graduate students will be able to complete a three-semester program in which they will study for two semesters at their home institution and one abroad. Students will be offered master's level classes from a wide range of computer science topics such as software development, robotics, computer graphics and artificial intelligence.

Classes at both UWP and the Darmstadt university will all be taught in English. JIM program coordinator and UWP professor Rob Hasker, who has been developing the program with a team of faculty members from both schools, said German instructors in the program are bilingual.

"The language barrier really isn't a problem over there," Hasker said.

UWP software engineering graduate Zak Purvis began master's study last semester. Though he has never traveled outside the country before, he will begin study at the Darmstadt university this fall.

"Everyone there pretty much speaks a little English, but I don't know their native language so it's going to be a little awkward that way," Purvis said. "It's going to be interesting. I can't wait."

Purvis said he is anticipating some differences in the cultures. For instance, bicycling is a popular form of transportation in German cities because parking spots are hard to find. One Darmstadt professor, Krzysztof Amborski, taught at UWP last semester and helped acclimate Purvis to the differences he might experience.

"You could always ask him about the culture. He's really helpful," Purvis said. "He's leaving me his bike, so when I get over there I can ride around."

Likewise, eight German students are set to begin study at UWP in the fall semester. Hasker said one of the greatest benefits of the JIM program will be students' exposure to another culture right in the classroom.

"We will have German students mixed in with the American students," Hasker said.

As part of the curriculum, students will complete a language and culture course while studying abroad. They will also coordinate with a customer in the industry to complete a software development project specific to their area of study, and in their third semester will write a master's thesis.

Obtaining a joint international master's as opposed to a traditional degree may be a benefit to students from both countries. Darmstadt computer science professor Bettina Harriehausen-MŸhlbauer said she hopes the experience will help students learn how to interact in a different culture and prepare for careers in an international environment.

"In a rather competitive job market, the international aspect is very important when applying for jobs in the information technology world," Harriehausen-MŸhlbauer said.

Purvis said programmers and software designers must always continue to learn so they don't fall behind the curve. He said he anticipates entering the workforce as a programmer but might consider going for a doctorate at a later date.

Harriehausen-MŸhlbauer said the JIM program may help improve relations between the countries, and she hopes many friendships will result among German and U.S. students. Faculty members from both institutions have already struck friendships developing this program over the last two years.

"I'm glad to be part of this international team," Harriehausen-MŸhlbauer said. "It's a pure joy to work with the colleagues from UWP and I'm looking forward to many cooperative years ahead."

Those interested in the UWP Joint International Master's Program may learn more by visiting the UWP Computer Science and Software Engineering web site ( Students eligible for the JIM program are required to have a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering or similar field of study.


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