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Western Michigan University: Developing in-demand experts for a digital world

At the Western Michigan University (WMU) Department of Computer Science, technological advances are being studied and disciplines are being bridged. Professors Alvis Fong and Fahad Saeed discovered a new approach for Autism Spectrum Disorder detection, using machine learning. Fong, alongside fellow faculty members Shameek Bhattacharjee, Ajay Gupta and Steve Carr received a nearly US$300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to create materials for teaching safe, secure and reliable artificial intelligence. Student Jonathan Sanford used his knowledge in JAVA to help mentor Schoolcraft Middle School’s Robotics Club to programme a robot when no one else could.

There is a clear theme across programmes, research topics, and an illustrious community at WMU. From students to faculty members, everyone is eager, inspired and capable of turning problems into opportunities.

As the world becomes increasingly digitised and cloud-based, technology and computer industries are evolving and expanding at a rapid pace. Its prominence has cemented its place in business, consumer affairs, and range of sectors – sparking an increase in information leaks, data breaches, and premeditated virtual assaults by hackers and other skilled cyber criminals.

“Cybersecurity is pervasive,” explains Katie Marshall, a WMU Master of Science in Cybersecurity graduate. “We’re constantly hearing about this cyber attack, or this ransomware attack, or somebody who hacked into a water system around the Super Bowl and tried to poison the water. When you think about how much time you spend on the internet, how many different passwords you have, how many different policies are in place – if you don’t understand those, you’re putting yourself and others at risk.”

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Katie Marshall. Source: Western Michigan University

WMU ensures women are comfortable enough to break the stigma of tech being a predominantly-male industry. Source: Western Michigan University

By acquiring a solid, experiential foundation at WMU, those following in Katie’s footsteps are set to take their careers in tech to the next level. The Master of Science in Cybersecurity – offered jointly with faculty members from both Haworth College of Business and the College of Engineering and Applied Science – encourages research and teaches advanced application of principles and concepts, derived from real threats.

Its teachings focus on building and enhancing the know-how for future cybersecurity experts while developing skill sets in communication, project management, and collaboration – all of which are crucial for those looking to lead.

Its core courses include secure system administration, web application security, software development for cybersecurity, information assurance and security, information security governance and risk management, and cyberwarfare, cybercrime, and digital forensics. Electives round out the experience, allowing students to expand their knowledge in topical areas such as business data management, network penetration testing, wireless ethical hacking, installation hardening, operations security, and more.

In addition to the Bureau of Labour Statistics reporting US$99,730 as the median salary for all cybersecurity positions –– one of the highest average salaries offered in the tech field –– job opportunities in cybersecurity are also expected to grow 32% by 2028. The boom is open to all and WMU ensures women are comfortable enough to break the stigma of tech being a “predominantly-male” industry.

“Going through a programme like this makes you comfortable as a woman in tech – because you will know what your skills are, you will be confident in your own abilities and in your intelligence,” Katie says.

For those looking for a broad discipline that focuses on the study of computer software and computing as a whole, a robust computer science qualification is the way to go. The WMU Master’s Programme in Computer Science fits the bill as a programme that emphasises both computer software development and the theoretical foundations of computer science.

Students enrolled in this programme are on track to secure lucrative careers in business, industry, government, or graduate work at a doctoral level. Areas of faculty specialisation include artificial intelligence, computer security, computer networking, machine learning, and scientific computing –– amongst many more. The programme also permits students to acquire expertise in closely related fields such as computer engineering and mathematics.

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Students enrolled in the Master’s Programme in Computer Science are on track to secure lucrative careers in business, industry, government, or graduate work at a doctoral level. Source: Western Michigan University

Here, nine out of 10 graduates secure a job they love in the fields of their choosing. With help from the WMU Career and Student Employment Services, every student receives expert guidance when exploring career options, searching for jobs, interviewing, negotiating, and finding internships and jobs.

“Being in the WMU Computer Science programme has been a great experience for me,” enthuses Ahmed Radwan, from Egypt. “The knowledge and experience I gained from studying and working at WMU have opened up a lot of opportunities for me whether it be looking for an internship, a job, or even pursuing further studies. Thanks to them, I have been able to land a summer internship at Quicken Loans as a software engineer and a full-time position in compiler optimization at Texas Instruments.”

Support from faculty members is an added bonus Wassnaa Al-Mawee, a faculty specialist from Iraq, swears by. “Professors in the Department of Computer Science are knowledgeable and experienced. With clear instructions, they pushed my ability to achieve my goals with outstanding performance,” she enthuses. “It offered many opportunities to develop my research and teaching skills. As a result, the department transformed me to a skillful academic candidate who can fulfill any academic position in the US or worldwide.”

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