William & Mary

W&M joins commonwealth’s Tech Talent initiative to produce more computer scientists

  • A student writes computer code on a desktop
    More tech, much more talent:  William & Mary’s undergraduate major in computer science has experienced considerable growth in the past decade. The university’s participation in Virginia’s Tech Talent Investment Program will secure funding to expand on that natural growth.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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Update: Governor Ralph Northam's office released new figures for additional computer science degrees to be generated by the state as part of the Tech Talent initiative. The commonwealth will produce a minimum of 25,000 new degrees over the next 20 years, with a goal to exceed that figure by producing 31,000 new degrees.

William & Mary will receive more than $1.3 million annually in additional state support as part of a bipartisan initiative designed to generate 25,000 additional computer science degrees in Virginia by 2039.

Governor Ralph Northam announced a round of awards in the Tech Talent Investment Program in a Nov. 7 ceremony at Virginia State University. William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe was present at the ceremony.

"This initiative is an investment in Virginians," said Governor Northam. “Virginia’s tech sector will continue booming only if we can train the workforce those jobs require. With today’s announcement, we are educating a workforce that will fill jobs at hundreds of tech companies around the commonwealth, including at Amazon, helping boost our economy and quality of life in every corner of Virginia.”

Confirmed through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the state, William & Mary’s award will allow the university to add faculty in the Department of Computer Science. In return, the Tech Talent MOU calls for an increase in computer science bachelor degrees produced at the university from a 2019 baseline of 62 graduates to 121 in 10 years by meeting existing high demand and through appropriate enrollment growth.

“William & Mary applauds Virginia’s initiative in advancing critical capabilities within the commonwealth,” Rowe said. “William & Mary’s wide-ranging curriculum prepares technically savvy graduates to think critically, ethically and strategically. We know these talented human beings will thrive in the rapidly changing technology sector. We are enthusiastic partners with the business community, legislature and Governor in making Virginia a magnet for talent.”

William & Mary’s Board of Visitors passed a resolution in April authorizing the university to apply for Tech Talent funding, a program spurred by Amazon’s announcement to locate a second corporate headquarters — known as HQ2 — in Northern Virginia.

The Tech Talent announcement includes William & Mary in a category with Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia for funding aimed at expanding the state’s overall production of computer science degrees by 75 percent over a 20-year period. Sam Jones, William & Mary’s senior vice president for finance and administration, noted that ongoing funding is based on performance — that is, production of additional computer science degrees.

“Tech Talent funds continue to build William & Mary’s strength in disciplines that are essential to the state’s workforce while meeting student demand for computer science,” Jones said. “These funds supplement fiscal year 2020 funding provided by the commonwealth to address high-demand degree programs, including data science.”

In addition to the Tech Talent funding for computer science, the commonwealth’s 2018/2020 budget amendment early this year allocated $570,000 in funding and three full-time faculty positions to support William & Mary’s newly approved data science major.

William & Mary is committing to graduate 67 CS bachelor degrees in 2020, then 72 in 2021, and so on, to a peak expectation of 121 bachelor degrees by 2030. The university is expected to maintain that peak annual number of CS graduates until 2039, with an estimated 65 percent of the graduates being Virginia students. The MOU calls for $781,842 in additional operating support this fiscal year, and then $1.38 million in each subsequent year until the 2039-2040 fiscal year.

The commonwealth also will provide additional funding, in the form of $1.5 million in capital support in fiscal year 2020-21, and nearly $300,000 from the Higher Education Equipment Trust Fund during the first three full years of Tech Talent operation.

Provost Peggy Agouris said Dennis Manos, vice provost for research and graduate/professional studies, and Michael Lewis, chair of computer science, helped make the initiative a reality on W&M’s campus.

“They and many others on our campus recognize William & Mary’s important role in increasing the number of computer science graduates to further Virginia’s importance to the nation and to the world,” Agouris said.

Computer science has seen a surge in the number of graduates at William & Mary since 2010, in which the department had 12 graduates. More recent William & Mary graduating classes have contained between 60 and 75 computer science bachelor’s degrees. With the increasing popularity of the CS major, Lewis said the Tech Talent funding will allow the department to grow enrollment and expand the curriculum without compromising class sizes.

“The outcome of this initiative is great news for William & Mary students and faculty as well the state’s future workforce,” Lewis said.

He added, “We’re ready to make sure the university is a key player.”