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UW’s electrical & computer engineering department hosts transition to new degree program | Community

UW’s electrical & computer engineering (ECE) department recently announced the transition from their Bachelor’s of Science degree in electrical engineering (BSEE) to an electrical and computer engineering (BSECE) degree. This change, which will take effect in Autumn 2022, comes as the result of a long-term effort by the department to adequately represent the multi-faceted discipline.

The transition began back in 2018 when the department itself changed its name from EE to ECE.

“For decades, our department has been doing more than electrical engineering,” Dr. Eric Klavins, chair of the ECE department, said. “We’ve been building computers, using computers, designing computers. Computing is a big part of what we do and so, in 2018, the department changed its name from EE to ECE.”

Then, the real challenge began: Over the course of nearly three years, Klavins and his team worked tirelessly to create a degree program that would reflect the department’s principles.

“We talked to everybody,” Klavins said. “We had every faculty member in our department reviewing multiple iterations of the proposed changes. we had [input from] students on our Student Advisory Council … [and Curriculum Committee] … We also had to talk to other departments, the college, community colleges, our alumni, our industry advisory board, and the companies that hire our students because they all want to know what we’re doing with our curriculum.”

Klavins said he believes the program roll-out will be a smooth transition.

“We are really confident in the results,” Klavins said. “It has been looked at by so many people that I think it’s bulletproof.”

The BSECE degree introduces two new core courses, EE 201: Computer Hardware Skills and EE 280: Exploring Devices, that create a stronger foundation for students entering the discipline. Following the completion of the core curriculum, students are able to construct a path through the degree, with courses that focus on their own interests within the industry.

“ECE is an incredibly broad field,” Klavins said. “And I think that the reality of ECE is that all of that stuff can be combined into a degree in different ways depending on the person, and I’m just excited that students will have a chance to put together their own intellectual landscape and explore the way they want to explore and that we can give them that flexibility.”

According to the official announcement of the program, new admits will only be able to enter the BSECE program, but both BSEE and BSECE degrees will be awarded until all students currently enrolled in EE either graduate or switch to ECE, which will likely be by the end of 2026.

While rising seniors completing their BSEE degrees will be unable to switch to an ECE degree due to time and capacity constraints, Klavins said that the degree name on the diploma isn’t what matters.

“We made the degree much more flexible, but it’s still the same EE classes that we already have,” Klavins said. “All of our constituents know what department the students are coming from. And they don’t care that much about what the name of the degree is; what they care about is that they came from this amazing department.”

As for the future, Klavins and the ECE department said they are extremely excited about what the new program can offer prospective students.

“UW has so many great opportunities within itself beyond departments,” undergraduate advisor for the ECE department Stephanie Swanson said. “So I’m excited this degree will allow students to not only customize their interests within the program but also within UW, and so they’ll get a lot more out of the UW experience.”

Reach contributing writer Alexandra Yakimova at Twitter: @alex_theyak

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