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Release: Immediate

Board of Regents to review proposed UI/industry computer software education center

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- If Iowa one day becomes known as "the Silicon Valley of the Midwest," it may be the result of something called "Software@Iowa" (pronounced "software at Iowa").

That's the name of a proposed University of Iowa interdisciplinary center of excellence for software development that the Board of Regents, during its Oct. 21-22 meeting in Cedar Falls, will be asked to refer to the board office for review and recommendation. A joint initiative of the Colleges of Engineering, Business Administration and Liberal Arts, the center is aimed at encouraging more UI students to pursue careers in computer software development at Iowa-based companies by uniting the UI and industry as partners in software-related education, research and community outreach activities.

Operating in its educational capacity, Software@Iowa will develop and offer new career-oriented courses in software technology development and related subjects to students throughout the university. The courses, some of which will be team-taught by university faculty and industry professionals, will allow students to earn certificates to be established by individual UI colleges and departments. In its research and community role, Software@Iowa will host workshops and lectures and offer courses and other activities over the Iowa Communications Network (ICN) and the Internet.

Funding for the center, which will be housed in the UI College of Engineering's new Seamans Center for the Engineering Arts and Sciences, is estimated at about $80,000 per year, with much of it coming from industry and other outside sources. The center is expected to work closely with the one-year-old Iowa Software Association (ISA) to obtain funds for professional development activities.

Rockwell-Collins software developer Roger Shultz, ISA president and a co-director of the center, said that the center will encourage students to build careers with Iowa-based companies. He said that Iowa industry's future competitive advantage rests with today's software engineering students.

"Software development is one of the fastest-growing industries in the state. There are more than 700 software-based companies in Iowa," Shultz said, "and local companies are very interested in having a program to provide them with future software leadership." He noted that the Iowa Department of Economic Development, which has been supportive of the ISA, has a goal in common with the center and ISA: growth in software development in education and industry.

Jon Kuhl, UI professor of electrical and computer engineering and center co-director, said that the center will strive to become the best educational program of its kind in the country.

"We expect the center to be similar in some respects to the university's successful John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center. We want to augment -- not compete with -- existing programs and classes," Kuhl said. "Courses are helpful, but to be successful, you need to learn from experts out in the world who are developing software in a commercial environment.

"We want to fundamentally impact the way software professionals are trained," Kuhl said. "And at the same time, we want to help software professionals increase the likelihood that they will be able to establish their careers right here in Iowa."

Administratively, the project co-directors will be aided by a board of directors including the deans of business, engineering, and liberal arts, the UI vice president for research, the director of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, and an industrial representative. The board, which will assist in oversight matters, and the co-directors will report to the dean of the College of Engineering, who, in turn, will report to the UI Provost.

"Software@Iowa establishes another innovative model for excellence in teaching and learning at the University of Iowa. It enables our students to gain valuable "real world" experience by applying their skills alongside Iowa professionals who one day may very well be their business colleagues," Richard K. Miller, dean of the College of Engineering, said. "The College of Engineering is especially proud to be part of this exciting new industry-based educational center. It gives faculty from three complementary UI colleges another opportunity to interact closely with industry, sharing their teaching and research expertise in a vibrant team environment. At the same time, the center will help develop leaders in computer software innovation for the state of Iowa -- a long-recognized characteristic strength of the University of Iowa in work force development."