Software engineering bachelor’s degree will be available at Snow College
OREM—Snow College will offer a bachelor’s degree in software engineering beginning next year.
The Utah State Board of Regents approved the degree program—Snow’s second four-year program, at a meeting at Utah Valley University last Friday, Nov. 18.
“This is a great day for Snow and for the economic development of our service district,” Dan Black, dean of natural science and mathematics, said moments after the program was approved.
Snow College becomes the first institution in Utah and only the 21st in the country to offer a degree in software engineering. The first set of graduates are expected in just two years, since approximately 15 students are ready to begin junior-level courses.
Kevin Christensen, director of economic development for Sanpete County, said the program will transform the Six County region.
“If we have this skilled labor that’s continually produced, over time it will give opportunities for local people,” he said.
Christensen said graduates of the program would leave Snow with the skills they needed to start their own software engineering firms. And businesses looking for skilled software developers would be drawn to Sanpete County and the Six County region.
“A lot of industries need to be in the city, but software development is something that can be anywhere,” he said. “It’s a good fit for our region.”
Snow College President Gary Carlston said the program would enable more young families to stay in Sanpete County. “People want to live in rural areas, and they want their kids to live in rural areas,” he said. “We’re hoping this opens a door for their kids to come back.”
Students in the degree program can choose one of three emphases: entrepreneurship, digital media design and web development.
Kristal Ray, a Snow faculty member who helped formulate the degree proposal, said there has been a concerted effort to align coursework with industry needs.
“The demand [for software engineers] is very high,” she said.
Ray said that software and web development are the two fastest growing fields in Utah. Since there are not enough Utah workers trained for these jobs, tech companies have to look outside the state to fill many positions.
For example, Ray said, Hill Air Force Base could hire every graduate of every tech program in Utah and still have positions that wouldn’t be filled.
The new degree should help tie Central Utah to the burgeoning tech economy of the Wasatch Front. The area along 1-15 near Thanksgiving Point has become known as the “Silicon Slopes” in popular media because of the concentration of tech companies there, notably a large Adobe site opened a few years ago.
Snow College began offering its first bachelor’s degree in commercial music in 2012. The program has had no trouble attracting students. Unlike classical music majors at many institutions, the Snow program emphasizes preparing students to market themselves and make a living in various music venues, including on-line music.
In order to maintain its status as a comprehensive community college, Snow can award no more than 10 percent of its degrees at the baccalaureate level. The bachelor of music degree currently accounts for about 3 percent of degrees awarded. The addition of degrees in software engineering degrees is not expected take the college up to the 10 percent threshold.
“We’re expecting 40 to 50 majors at the height of the program,” Steve Hood, academic vice president, said. Snow will hire two faculty members to support the program.
Under the direction of Garth Sorenson, associate professor of engineering and computer science, the college began exploring the possibility of a bachelor’s degree in computer science four years ago.
When Scott Wyatt, college president at the time, transferred to Southern Utah University, that process was put on hold.
Sorenson and his colleagues revisited the possibility when Carlston’s appointment as president was made official two years ago.
The college hired Ray, a PhD-level professor with “significant experience in software development,” Sorenson said, and the proposal evolved from a degree in computer science to a degree in software engineering.
Carlston said the new degree would provide exciting opportunities for the region while maintaining the school’s tradition as a two-year institution.
“Snow’s traditional roots are important, but we need to be thinking about how we can keep the college viable,” he said.
Regent Robert Prince, chair of the committee that approved the software engineering program, agreed.
“Snow College is unique,” he said. “This is one of the crown jewels of our system—different than anything else we have.”
Students can begin enrolling in the software engineering program next fall.