UBC Reports | Vol. 50 | No. 9 | Oct.
New Computer Science Degree Program
Students from diverse working world backgrounds can gain
By Gayle Mavor
As classmates go, they couldn’t be more different.
Laura Aslan is a 34-year-old single mom with a Master of
Psychology who has spent most of the past four years since
she arrived from Romania working in group homes with teenagers
at risk and their parents.
Saylor Bale holds a Master of Neuroscience from Washington
State University. Prior to coming to UBC, she was doing research
related to cellular and molecular biology at the Max Planck
Institute in Germany.
But these two new UBC students are among the first to be
accepted into an unusual new bachelor of computer science
degree designed for individuals who already hold at least
a bachelor’s degree and would like to add computer expertise
to their education and work experience.
Offered through the department of computer science, the
Bachelor of Computer Science (Integrated Computer Science)
is 20-month second degree program that is the first of its
kind in Western Canada.
Aslan says she gathered the courage to apply to the program
in spite of “not being particularly great at math, and
with only average computer skills”, because it was one
of the few programs she could find in her online search that
was not designed for “computer geeks.”
Her motivation was also ignited by the lack of computer
experience she witnessed while working in group homes. She
was often the person who ended up troubleshooting and, as
a result, began to recognize a genuine interest in learning
more. Since applying to BCS (ICS), she has also inspired her
15-year-old daughter Ioana to enroll in a technology immersion
program offered through King George Secondary school in Vancouver’s
“I can envision,” she says, “the future
possibility that Ioana and I might actually be capable of
creating our own consulting firm focused specifically on addressing
the computing needs of the social services sector in Vancouver.”
Smaller class sizes, a greater emphasis on communication
and technical writing skills, and an optional Co-op component
are some of the program’s features. Twenty-nine students
with backgrounds ranging from linguistics to medicine are
currently enrolled, and the diversity of their educational
backgrounds helps to enrich the learning environment.
BCS (ICS) director Paul Carter, an instructor in computer
science, emphasizes that this two-year degree provides students
with all the core courses that are expected of students taking
the four year Bachelor of Science degree. In addition to Computer
Science courses, the program offers 15 credits of upper level
electives that allow students to expand on their previous
education or branch out in a completely new direction and
explore the interdisciplinary nature of computer science in
“Increasingly, computers are the driving force in
research as witnessed in the Human Genome Project and other
large research projects. Computing professionals are key partners
in collaboration with other experts to propel advances in
so many areas of society,” says Carter.
Having a well-rounded background and up-to-date computer
knowledge is definitely a plus by industry standards.
Jon Stevens, a program / product manager with Absolute Software,
a downtown Vancouver firm that provides a guaranteed computer
theft recovery and secure asset tracking service, says that
when he’s recruiting for a software developer, he’s
more likely to choose someone with real world experience,
in addition to their degree.
“The ideal candidate is someone who can understand
the business needs and financial constraints of the project
and can work in teams or on their own. Strong written and
verbal communication is vitally important as is the ability
to adjust the communication dependent on the audience -- from
sales to technical staff,” Stevens says.
“A breadth of technical skills is also a bonus --
most software involves a user interface and a database so
I look for a developer with both these skill sets. Finally
I look for experience in the complete software development
lifecycle -- from analysis / design through coding, testing
and implementation. A candidate with all these skills will
be very marketable.”
BCS(ICS) evolved from a previous diploma program known as
Alternate Routes to Computing (ARC) designed in 1998 by computer
science instructors Ian Cavers and George Tsiknis.
The next intake to the BCS (ICS) program is in September 2005
with an application deadline of February 28, 2005. For more
information, visit www.arc.cs.ubc.ca.