The longtime member of the nursing faculty will succeed Dr. Gail Poirrier. Poirrier has served as dean for 17 years, and will retire July 1.
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette will offer the state’s first master’s degree in informatics starting next year.
The Louisiana Board of Regents approved the new graduate program in the School of Computing and Informatics during its May 22 meeting.
UL Lafayette first offered its undergraduate informatics major in 2011. The newly approved master’s degree program will begin in the Spring 2018 semester.
“It is designed to provide advanced education and research in information sciences and information technology,” said Dr. Azmy S. Ackleh, dean of the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences, which includes the School of Computing and Informatics. “It focuses on training graduate students in computing applied to multiple disciplines.”
Informatics is applied computer science. It examines how individuals interact with and share information. Informatics students learn to design and adapt information systems to solve problems that arise in the workplace and in everyday life.
Dr. Michael W. Totaro, an associate professor in the School of Computing and Informatics, said UL Lafayette’s program will emphasize enterprise computing, which will enable its graduates to assess an institution’s needs comprehensively. Those skills can help businesses and government agencies run more efficiently.
“Enterprise computing includes the analytics, reporting, database management and other software solutions systems that span the entire organization,” Totaro said. “One of the most exciting aspects of our new master of science in informatics program is the fact that it is truly interdisciplinary, as information technology is used today in virtually every area.”
Dr. Xindong Wu, director of the School of Computing and Informatics, said the new program arrives at a promising time for Louisiana and Lafayette. Over the past five years, a number of information technology companies, including IBM in Baton Rouge, General Electric in New Orleans and CenturyLink in Monroe, have either relocated to the state or expanded existing operations here.
Lafayette “continues to develop into a regional hub” for information technology industries, Wu said. He pointed to Enquero, CGI and Perficient, all of which opened facilities in the city since 2015. Enquero and CGI are tenants of UL Lafayette’s University Research Park, while Perficient operates in downtown Lafayette.
Nationally, the outlook is equally good. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that job opportunities for computing and information technology professionals will increase at a higher-than-average rate over the next decade.
The informatics master’s degree curriculum “is sufficiently generalized to allow graduates to find employment both within and outside Louisiana,” Wu concluded.
Students with a bachelor’s degree in a related scientific or engineering field can apply for admission into the program. The 33-hour curriculum includes thesis and non-thesis options. A full-time student can complete a degree in four regular semesters, or about 24 months.
Informatics graduate students can take courses in business, interactive media technology, system administration and web development, among others.
“This program further solidifies Louisiana’s position as a national leader in computing and information technologies,” Ackleh said. “It will also supply the Louisiana workforce with much-needed graduates who are trained in applied computing with an emphasis on solving real-world problems.”
Photo: Doug Dugas / University of Louisiana at Lafayette