I am driving over this morning to the Computer and Information Sciences department at St. Ambrose University in nearby Davenport, Iowa, to give a brief talk (slides here) and talk to students and faculty about graduate study at The University of Iowa.
[Updated after my visit:] I had a great trip over to St. Ambrose CS. I was very warmly greeted by professors Kevin Lillis, Mark McGinn, and Gary Monnard, as well as a very nice turnout of undergraduates (30?) interested in learning a bit more about University of Iowa graduate programs in CS. I also did tell them a bit about some of our group’s research. My impression was that many students already have great jobs lined up for after college, and the costs of further study are perceived as a major impediment. Now we have a great situation here at Iowa, where we have enough external grant funding and internal funding through fellowships and teaching assistantships that certainly for doctoral study, and even for Master’s study for strong students, graduate study will not cost anything for the student, and they’ll even get a stipend. This is standard, of course, at most research departments, but I think the word is not out to undergraduates about this. It may take some time to change people’s knowledge of the graduate-education system.
Anyhow, I had a great time talking with Kevin, Mark, and Gary, and learning more about St. Ambrose. The school has around 3300 (full-time equivalent) students, of whom around 2600 are undergraduates. I got the impression that most are from Davenport or nearby, with a significant percentage of nontraditional (age) students and commuters who don’t live on campus. The CS department has something like 80 students in a number of different majors the department offers. The campus itself is very nice: it occupies something like a 4-block by 4-block square in Davenport. The building we were in for my talk, the Rogalski Center, is very nice and quite new. Kevin walked me around campus, including the lovely chapel; there was a beautiful Madonna and Child by Fr. Catich, founder of the art department at St. Ambrose and known for beautiful art works on slate of religious scenes (like this).
Our department has sent faculty out to I think it is 8 or 9 colleges in the region this fall, to try to increase our domestic applicant pool for graduate study. I very much hope this succeeds — that’s the kind of extra work on grad admissions we want to have!