New College of Informatics instated

So what does Informatics mean? It depends who you ask.

“It signifies doing something new,” said visiting assistant professor Dr. Gary Ozanich.

“Part of what we’re doing this year is defining that term,” Interim Dean Dr. J. Patrick Moynahan said.

Its definition may not be obvious, but Northern Kentucky University administrators hope the new college’s impact will be.

NKU has founded the College of Informatics. The college combines the Communication, Computer Science and Information Systems departments to parallel with the changing needs of the business world, said Moynahan.

“The disciplines we are pulling together here are intersecting in the business and industrial world.

“Higher education has to adapt rapidly to fit a rapidly changing society without sacrificing the fundamentals of its disciplines,” Moynahan said.

The three departments are currently reworking their curriculum, which may lead to a shared set of core classes for the entire college, said Computer Science department chair Dr. Gary Newell.

“A student will learn to be a renaissance person by being exposed to more interdisciplinary topics,” Newell said.

This can sound overwhelming to students who aren’t planning to become renaissance people.

“Don’t worry, we’re not expecting speech majors to pound out 10,000 lines of Java code,” Newell said.

New programs, such as health informatics, information security, hardware engineering, embedded systems and integrated media are in the works, Moynahan said.

The new programs may require new faculty.

“We have begun assessment of our strengths and weaknesses and filling in gaps.

“We have some expertise in these fields, but we want to bring in primary experts tied to the new programs and areas of expertise where we’re not fully staffed,” Moynahan said.

Along with adding new faculty he has hope of another big addition that will help the new college establish itself as a technological resource for the area.

“There are plans for a new building in NKU’s capital plan. That all hinges on state approval,” Moynahan said.

NKU is not the first university to offer a college of informatics. Similar programs were started at Indiana University and SUNY Buffalo.

Ozanich helped start the college at SUNY Buffalo and is now helping NKU in the beginning process.

“We asked what local businesses want from new employees, and that’s what we are trying to fill.

“We have a pretty good idea of what the industry needs. Now we are building a curriculum that helps students get jobs,” Ozanich said.

Ozanich is also helping to found the Institute for Information Innovation.

The institute will serve the community in two ways. It will provide access for public and private entities to the expertise and equipment the College of Informatics has to offer, and it will allow students and faculty to partner with the public and private sectors on problem solving projects that will engage the college in real world research, Moynahan said.

“We’re hoping our relationships with organizations in the area will lead to more co-ops and better job placement for graduates,” Ozanich said.