Morehouse College has launched a new undergraduate software engineering degree program, leading the nation as one of the first HBCUs to offer the major. Sixteen students are currently pursuing their degrees in software engineering, including some who have transferred into the major from computer science, business, biology, and dual degree engineering. Dr. Kinnis Gosha, Morehouse College’s Division Chair for Experiential Learning and Interdisciplinary Studies and Hortenius I. Chenault Endowed Professor, has developed courses for the program that prepare students to compete for internships and jobs at top tech firms.
“In my nine years working in the computer science department here at Morehouse, I have learned that the curriculum had to be radically changed to keep up with the pace that tech companies were moving at,” Gosha said. “As a result, we have built a curriculum centered around the skills that the large tech firms are looking for that we didn’t teach consistently in our computer science program. It is designed to prepare students so that they don’t just get a job, they get the best, most competitive job.” The new software development program is staffed by existing faculty but will expand to include adjunct professors and industry partners in the tech industry. Students take required classes in full-stack web development, mobile web development, computer ethics, and human values, as well as human-computer interaction. Its first graduates could earn their degrees as soon as May 2021.
Currently, there are freshmen, sophomores, and juniors enrolled. Based on an informal audit of computer science programs at HBCUs across the country, Gosha said it appears that Morehouse is the first to offer a degree in software engineering. Recently, the program received an important endorsement from a national leader in business. JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon has donated $100,000 to Morehouse College for the creation of a Software Engineering Innovation Lab under Gosha’s direction. Gosha said the gift will support the development of a spacious area in which students can brainstorm and work together on group projects as they would at tech firms.
The Innovation Lab will include collaboration spaces, a video wall, a digital whiteboard, and quiet spaces for reflection and meditation. “In the industry, one person doesn’t develop Google Maps or Microsoft Word,” Gosha said. “You have to work in large teams. This gift will assist us in developing a world-class program for men of color who want to become software developers. Black males have been woefully underrepresented in the nation’s computing footprint, and this gift is one small step in changing the narrative.” Only seven percent of employed black professionals with a bachelor’s degree or higher work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, a study by Pew Research shows. The average salary for a software engineer is about $107, 300, according to Glassdoor.com.