Aberdeen professionals were already taking other engineering coursework at UD, therefore the goal was to provide an additional advanced degree opportunity for the relocated software engineering professionals from CERDEC and CECOM (Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center; and Communications-Electronics Command).
Lori Pollock, UD professor of computer and information sciences (CIS) was on the original program steering committee which included CIS as well as electrical and computer engineering (ECE) faculty. "During the time we were looking for model programs to inform our curriculum, there were just a handful of graduate degree programs in software engineering, and some were only certificate programs, not a complete master's degree," explained Pollock.
The committee also included Assistant Professor Stephen Siegel and Department Chair Errol Lloyd from CIS, the late Professor David Sincoskie and Associate Professor Stephan Bohacek from ECE, and Assistant Dean for Engineering Outreach Kathy Werrell.
In addition to input from the U.S. Army, the committee surveyed
other companies in the region, confirming that the program would
fill a significant need, said Werrell, adding that the degree was designed with the part-time working professional student in mind.
The program includes a significant project requirement, giving
professionals the option to incorporate a workplace problem.
Kristina Winbladh, who joined UD in 2010 as an ECE assistant
professor now chairs the MSSE graduate program committee.
Winbladh's course Software Design is a core requirement, and is
being offered online this semester. "We are keen on accommodating
students' work schedules. Most of our core courses are scheduled at
the end of the day to make it possible for working students to make it
to campus," explained Winbladh. "We also hope that offering some
online courses will encourage participation from a wider range of
Bridging the gap between industry and classroom
"Having students attend from different professional environments
makes a unique and interesting classroom experience as we discuss
how different industries do things, what works and what doesn't
work," added Winbladh. "Students often volunteer their own
experiences which really enriches the learning experience for
The first MSSE graduate students enrolled in Fall 2011.One of them
is Meena Abdou, who recently completed a bachelor's degree in
computer engineering at UD. "I was drawn to the MSSE because it
was new and it was needed," said Abdou. "I had read lots of articles
saying that software engineering was the hottest job in technology.
The year I graduated, I read that UD was creating a brand new
graduate program for software engineering. I saw this as a godsend
and immediately knew I had to enroll."
"In a course like Software Design," added Abdou, "the presence of
working professionals taking classes alongside full-time graduate
students is hugely beneficial. This course is all about bridging the gap
between what happens in industry and what is taught in universities.
The professionals who are expanding their education bring their
knowledge of industry practices, and illustrate the difference between
what they were taught, what is being taught now, how the field has
Saul Foresta is also taking Winbladh's course this semester. "I enrolled
in Software Design because I am interested in pursuing the M.S. in
software engineering, and I have already been introduced to concepts
and practices that I can incorporate into my work," said Foresta, a
computer scientist within the Army's CERDEC unit performing
applied research and development in the area of satellite
"One particular focus of our research is in the application of digital
signal processing and semiconductor technology in large satellite
communication facilities. These systems are heavily reliant on
software," explained Foresta. "Professor Winbladh is enthusiastic
about her subject and I appreciate how she has structured this course
in a way that balances both theory and practice."
Expanded interdepartmental collaboration
The interdepartmental nature of the program has resulted in
beneficial after-effects. As Pollock observed, "The process of building
the program together has created stronger collaborations between the
departments, and has strengthened faculty partnerships. Since then,
we've worked together on research and other collaborations that may
not have otherwise occurred."
Added Pollock, "The students are also exposed to faculty in both
departments, and I think they benefit from that as well."Current
MSSE faculty include Pollock, James Clause and Stephen Siegel of
CIS, in addition to Winbladh of ECE.
"We hope that the program will grow significantly in the coming
years," added Winbladh. "As a program that targets students from
local industry, we also hope to make connections and lasting
collaborations with industry. Many of the research opportunities that
exist in software engineering have a practical angle where both
researchers and industry benefit."