While the percentage of tenured track faculty is decreasing across university campuses nationwide, the number of adjunct professors is on the rise. For those of you who are not familiar with what an adjunct professor is, they are part time faculty members who are hired on a contractual basis as opposed to a tenured basis. While many people may see this as a problematic state in academia, the presence of adjunct professors can provide a unique perspective in and out of the classroom.
Here at UTCS and in particular this fall semester, we've seen a significant increase in adjunct professors teaching courses ranging from Big Data Programming to IOS Computing. As seen in a New York times highly debated article over this topic, the overall trend for the increase in adjunct professors has been due to the preferred economics of hosting more part time professors as opposed to full fledge research professors. Amid budget concerns here in UTCS, the addition of adjunct professors comes with a different spin. While adjunct professors here in the department have aided the department's staffing needs, they have also added a diverse addition of course offerings and perspectives.
This semester, I elected to take a class in Big Data Programming instructed by a UTCS adjunct professor and UT doctoral alumnus, Dr. David Franke. Along with prior experience in academia, Franke has brought a unique industry perspective to the classroom. From incorporating practices and examples of his experience at Vast.com that involves major concepts of Big Data Programming to sharing his personal experience with the class over real world challenges they might face involving course materials, the class has been structured with various examples from industry. I had the chance to sit down with Dr. Franke over his experience here at UTCS.
In conjunction with UTCS department chair, Bruce Porter, Franke provided industry input on how the new proposed Data Analytics certificate program would be constructed. With his wealth of experience as a data scientist at Vast.com and other corporations around industry, Franke volunteered to teach one of the certificate program's classes, Big Data Programming. Motivated by his prior experience in academia, Franke balances his full time work as chief Data Scientist at Vast.com with effective time management. When asked about the trend of universities hiring on more adjunct faculty in the years to come, Franke acknowledged the trend. Perhaps one of the most intriguing points Franke brought up, is that the presence of adjunct faculty can aid full time faculty in regards to meeting the needs of the amount of lecturers available. With times when the demand for computer science students is so high, the ease of departments to hire on part time faculty can not only aid full time faculty but it can provide students with additional faculty that bring a different perspective to the classroom. From my own experience in the class, I have enjoyed the unique perspective that Dr. Franke has brought and I am interested to see how the growth adjunct professors will continue to contribute to the culture of our department.
While more of our professors may be part time faculty in the years to come, the mix of tenured research professors and adjuncts teaching industry partner courses will continue to make UTCS one of the top and highly famed departments in the country. So whether you're a current student looking for a new variety of course offerings, or you're a prospective student considering UTCS as your school of choice, the Department of Computer Science here at The University of Texas at Austin has something for everyone.