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High tech training key to a successful liberal arts education at Fort Lewis College

FLC Engineering students go hands on in their classroom
FLC Engineering students go hands on in their classroom

DURANGO, CO – During the unveiling of the iPad2, Apple’s former CEO, the late Steve Jobs, said, “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing, and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices.”

This philosophy of technology and the liberal arts coming together to help make better graduates who make better products is more than a nice idea; it is a necessity for the future. The days when an institution could silo teaching technology into a computer science program and not worry about everybody else are fading fast.

With the liberal arts firmly implanted in its mission, Fort Lewis College is focused on making sure that its students get the technological training they need. One success story is the College’s Department of Physics and Engineering. The enrollment in the department has exploded over recent years, particularly in the engineering program where the number of students has nearly doubling from fall 2010 to fall 2012.

“Our Engineering and Physics programs strive to provide our students with hands-on experience with the tools they will need to succeed in their professions. Computer programming literacy and competency are an inherent part of our disciplines,” says Dr. Ryan Haaland, chair of the department.

The curriculum begins with skills such as computer-aided drafting and works toward high level computer programming tools like Matlab and Labview. The approach is working, evidenced by the engineering program reporting that more than 90 percent of its graduates are hired straight out of school.

“I can't emphasize enough that the set of programming tools we use in our programs are industry standards. With this set of tools, our students are productive in their profession on day one.”

Business is another area where technology is becoming increasingly vital to succeed. The FLC School of Business Administration (SOBA) is constantly looking for the latest technological innovations to incorporate into its classes. The school relies heavily on its close relationships with the business community to keep ahead of the curve.

The school has continued to adapt and evolve as the needs of business change. One area that is especially important is using technology to analyze and interpret the mountain of ever-changing data that businesses could use, if only they knew how to gather and analyze it.

This idea was the subject of a recent Forbes article by Kimberly Whitler entitled “What Can Marketers Do To Manage And Leverage Big Data?” Ms. Whitler states that “Effective marketers must understand data, know how to generate insight from, in some cases, millions of transactions, and be capable of interpreting and using statistical output to create smart strategies and plans.”

She interviewed Tim Suther, the chief marketing and strategy officer for Acxiom, and he explains that “There is a half trillion marketing dollars spent around the world and a significant amount of it is wasted: nearly 40% according to Rex Briggs’ research. A substantial reason is due to a lack of data or disconnected data that inhibits insight and measurement. Not only does data enable marketers to be more effective and efficient, but it provides the platform to be able to prove it.”

“We are working to develop a program in business analytics that will employ computer-based quantitative methods to turn vast amounts of data into actionable information so that business professionals can make better and more informed decisions,” says FLC’s Dr. Lyon. “That program will likely include coursework in data mining, econometrics, business analytics, and other applications of computers and quantitative methods.”

Mr. Job’s words concerning the marriage of technology and the liberal arts are ringing true at Fort Lewis College. His idea will only become more important as the world moves into an increasingly complex future, and Fort Lewis College is making sure its graduates are ready for that future.

Visit the Department of Physics and Engineering and School of Business Administration websites to learn more about the opportunities these programs offer its graduates.

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