During The Grainger College of Engineering Chicago Launch Event, Illinois CS Department Head Nancy M. Amato spoke with other academic leaders from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign about increasing our strategic impact within the city of Chicago.
Illinois Computer Science Department Head and Abel Bliss Professor of Engineering, Nancy M. Amato, officially kicked off the new Master of Computer Science program in Chicago on March 27 at The Grainger College of Engineering Chicago Launch Event.
A crowd of about 75 University of Illinois administrators, faculty, staff, alumni, and donors joined with government officials, academic and corporate partners, and the media to visit the new Chicago office space for Illinois CS and Grainger Engineering at 200 S. Wacker Drive. Amato joined several important figures speaking on the strategic way the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign continues to leverage its research, education, and public engagement impact within the city of Chicago. Those individuals included:
- Timothy Killeen, President of the University of Illinois System
- Robert Jones, Chancellor of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
- Rashid Bashir, Dean of The Grainger College of Engineering
- Samir Mayekar, Deputy Mayor for Neighborhood & Economic Development, city of Chicago
Attendees also included academic partners at institutions like the University of Illinois Chicago and DePaul University, who will work on projects moving forward.
Amato, an alumna of Illinois Computer Science, expressed excitement over the MCS in Chicago program, which has been discussed since she returned to the university in her current position in 2019.
“As Dean Bashir, Chancellor Jones, and President Killeen have already noted, Chicago is of tremendous importance to us. It provides opportunities for us to better reach and serve communities that are important to the university, the city, and the state and also brings more opportunities for our students, faculty and staff to collaborate – with industry, with other universities and educational institutions, with the city, and last, but certainly not least, with our alums,” Amato said.
In a time of unparalleled demand for computing education, Illinois CS is altering the way students can access a world class computing education.
An exploratory trip to Chicago in 2021 officially began the process of creating an MCS in Chicago program, Amato said. Present at both that trip and the official kickoff event were Mayekar with the city of Chicago and Illinois CS alumnus Mark Tebbe (BS CS '83) – who also provided a video for the kickoff event. Since those initial planning meetings, the MCS in Chicago program hasn’t only been built; it was already halfway through its first semester with an inaugural cohort of students during the kickoff event.
Amato also discussed another unique academic opportunity in Chicago, the Illinois Computer Accelerator for Non-specialists (iCAN) program. Under the guidance of Illinois CS professor and Director of Onramp Programs, Tiffani Williams, iCAN is a graduate certificate program for students who have an undergraduate degree outside of computing.
Additionally, Amato noted that Illinois CS enjoys collaborative opportunities in Chicago with alumni and corporate partners, through events like After Hours – which debuted in Chicago on March 9 after a long running history at UIUC as an informal, yet intimate, professional networking event. Additionally, there is the Professional Development Seminar hosted at the Discovery Partners Institute, which features alumni and corporate partner panels that provide insight and advice to current students both in-person and via Zoom.
Academic collaborations include a new partnership with the University of Illinois Chicago, Illinois community colleges, and Chicago Public Schools to help more students find and succeed in community college pathways to the computing programs at both UIC and UIUC.
There is also potential to further develop the Illinois CS model for blended computing degree programs – like the CS + X and new X + Data Science programs – in cooperation with colleagues like DePaul University.
“We have just started scratching the surface of new collaborations,” Amato said. “As you can see, the possibilities are tremendous, and we are excited for the future.”
Bashir concluded the festive day after speaking earlier about the power of the MCS in Chicago program – noting that Grainger is the largest engineering college in the country and graduates the most CS students.
“For more than 150 years, our students, faculty staff, and alumni have repeatedly changed the trajectory of society through their curiosity, discovery, and innovation,” Bashir said to end the evening. “We attract the most talented, innovative, and resilient minds in engineering, computing, business, healthcare, and technology. Our graduates are sought-after talent, our alumni are trusted industry leaders, and our faculty are called upon to drive solutions addressing the world’s most complex problems.
“Why? Because, at Grainger Engineering, creating solutions is what we do.”
Now, that will be occurring with greater frequency in the heart of Chicago.
At Illinois CS that effort will be led by Mahesh Viswanathan, professor and Associate Head for Academics.
And Grainger Engineering furthered its investment in Chicago through the appointments of Mike Bragg as Executive Director for Grainger Engineering Initiatives and Brian Bailey as Director for Academic and Community Initiatives.
Bailey, a professor with Illinois CS, has also served in multiple administrative capacities. He has made outstanding contributions to the research and education programs within the department, and is deeply committed to expanding the MCS program, the Grainger Engineering City Scholars program, all while developing new opportunities for our college in Chicago.
Bragg is a professor emeritus from the Department of Aerospace Engineering who served as department head of Aerospace Engineering previously. He also served as executive associate dean for The Grainger College of Engineering and interim dean before he assumed the dean position for the College of Engineering at the University of Washington. Bragg is uniquely poised to assume this high-level leadership position to develop partnerships and collaborations with the Chicago ecosystem, DPI, and the Chicago Initiatives leadership team in the coming years.