College of Engineering launches new certificate programs

Anya Sczerzenie

Contributing Writer

The VCU College of Engineering will launch two new graduate certificate programs in cybersecurity and data science in the spring 2019 semester.  

These programs are meant to continue education for professionals already working in these fields. They are separate from the regular master’s degree programs in these subjects, though much of the course content is the same.

The programs will help students proceed through graduate-level cybersecurity and data science courses without having to invest time in getting a full Master of Science degree in computer science — making it more convenient for people who are already working in the field.

“Students [in these programs] will take the same courses as the master’s students,” said Tomasz Arodz, graduate program director for the College of Engineering. “The difference is that the master’s program is focused on breadth, helping students know a lot about different things. The certificate programs are focused on depth, diving deep into one specific area.”

The classes will be taught by tenured professors who already teach classes in the master’s programs — including Arodz and engineering professors Milos Manic and Irfan Ahmed.

The certificate in data science will train students in analyzing large data sets for various businesses and government entities, according to the College of Engineering website. The program will also teach students to construct algorithms for computer systems that automatically learn from data.

“There’s a need for data science workers in Richmond,” said Kendra Gerlach, director of marketing and communications for the College of Engineering. “We have banks, government centers and the MCV medical campus.”

Some undergraduate students like Jordan Glisan, a member of the National Society of Black Engineers at VCU, question the importance of the certificate programs in the long run.

“I would say that a certificate might not be that much more beneficial due to the student having already been working in cybersecurity or data science,” Glisan said. “I think the value is best judged by those in that field.”

According to the College of Engineering website, the certificate in cybersecurity will train students to identify security risks in industry and public sector computer systems and defend against cyberattacks.

Arodz expects enrollment in these programs to be fairly small, with less than 100 students.

“Most master’s programs are very small,” Arodz said. “Hopefully, our enrollment will be in the double digits.”

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