Posts Tagged ‘University of St. Thomas’

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

I just started my second year of graduate school at the University of St. Thomas (UST) in St. Paul, MN, and I am working on a MS in Software Engineering degree. In my first year of classes, I enrolled in 2 classes per semester which is a heavy load when working full time. I felt I progressed so much after one year, that I would continue with the same workload, even though it left me with little time for things beyond work and school.

I enrolled in two classes for the Fall: Object Oriented Analysis and Design (OOA/D) and Data Warehousing (DW). Before classes started I re-read The Object Oriented Thought Process and Code Complete to prep for the OOA/D class. I also ordered both required textbooks from Amazon.com at a substantially reduced price compared to the new text prices in the bookstore. For the DW class, I didn’t know what other books would help, so I ordered all three text books listed in the course syllabus. The DW books, also from Amazon.com, were also at a reduced price compared to new books at the bookstore.

I had classes on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, so I dedicated the other 5 days to studying and project work. The Fall really flew by this year. So much to learn, so many interesting and new concepts, and a few new tools to learn too.

Tools

For OOA/D, we had to use MagicDraw to create UML drawings and I found it to be a fairly intuitive tool to use yet still quite powerful. Our OOA/D professor arranged for MagicDraw licenses, so I obtained one, downloaded and installed the software, and ran through a few tutorials that were quite helpful. Having an MSDN account for students to download Microsoft tools is a real blessing, and UST does provide accounts to those that need tools for their classes. My DW class required the MS SQL Server 2008 Management tools, so I used my UST MSDN account to download the software and installed it on a laptop running Windows 7.

Projects

Our OOA/D class had two person team projects, and our DW class had three person team projects. For OOA/D, each team decided what it wanted to do and then proposed it for approval to the professor. We did a website with Struts and Hibernate frameworks – very cool. For DW, the professor gave a five stage project, where he provided clean, valid data at the start of steps 2 – 4, so any mistakes made early in the project did not affect our ability to learn the material and do well on the assignment. This was the first time I’ve had known clean data in a multistage class assignment and I really liked it. At the start of stages 3 and 4, we were able to look back at to what we did and see how we did right and wrong in the earlier stage. This is one approach I really liked and I hope I see more assignments like it in the future.

Some tools that were useful in both projects we communications tools. Twitter and email absolutely rock, but they alone are not enough. In my OOA/D project, we used a free SVN repository hosted by ProjectLocker for keeping our source code in sync. For the DW project, we used Dropbox to do version control.

Tests and Homework

In both classes classes we had a mid-term and a final exam, and the exams were as challenging as last year. Both classes had multiple homework assignments. Not as much homework as I had in the Advanced Web Development course last Spring, but still more than enough, especially compared to undergrad course homework assignments.

Team Building

I worked with three different people on projects in both classes, and decided to be the driver of both projects. Both teams met at my house on different days to work on our projects, and one thing I did for team building was to fix lunch for the team. We all had different backgrounds and experiences, so a meal is a great way to relax and get to know other people. I like to cook (check out my food blog: mikeh2010.wordpress.com) and I like to try new recipes, so my team mates gamely tried the food. I didn’t duplicate the meals one time, and it seemed to work out well for both of us except perhaps one time. Once I served something very spicy (Korean BBQ) and it might have been too spicy for one of my team mates. He said it wasn’t, but he is a real trooper and may have just been polite. In any case, I appreciated the chance to cook and just talk with all three team mates and hope to partner with them again in other classes.

Conclusion

I enjoyed this semester. I learned a lot and enjoyed spending some time working on projects with my three classmates. I plan to generate another article or two on the topics we covered in both classes, as well as improve some of my existing articles. I know I still have another eight classes to complete my degree, but the education is worth the time and effort. Some people have no choice but attend online schools and that is fine – do what you can to improve yourself however you can. If you can attend class in person, it is well worth it. I missed a total of 1 class this semester, even though I had some health issues early in the semester, because I truly enjoyed being on campus.

I’m still excited to be in grad school, and I still believe it to be a good career choice for many professions besides software development. I’m taking a week off, then it is time to start reading again over the holiday break. I will take two classes in the Spring and look forward to what I learn in both courses I’ll take this Spring. Until then, keep on learning.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

I graduated with an undergrad degree in Computer Science in the Spring of 2010, and I enjoyed it so much I decided to go on to graduate school and ended up enrolling at the University of St. Thomas (UST) in St. Paul, MN, and started on a MS in Software Engineering degree in the Fall of 2010.

When I enrolled at UST, I used my experience in under grad courses to determine who many classes to take each semester. Half time in grad school is 1 class, and a full time load is 2 classes, so I decided to take 2 classes per semester. That was a mistake, because graduate school classes take so much more time and effort than undergrad classes.

After taking 4 classes this past school year, I found we read and absorbed an average of 3 books per class, had at least 1 project per class, had 3 – 10 homework assignments per class, and had 2 exams (mid term and final) per class. The part that was most difficult was the classes require the students to learn a variety of tools to use during the course, and these tools are not simple and each one takes time to learn, which takes away time from the assignment needing that tool.

I’m not complaining. I probably learned more over the past year than any 5 year period working in the software industry. I’ll go into each of the classes so I can give the highlights from each course.

Software Engineering is one of the first required classes and our professor was very knowledgeable and did not hold back. When he assigned our team projects, he specified that we use repositories and Twitter to document what we did during the course of the project. I have used repositories, but had little experience with Twitter. I discovered how much Twitter can help quickly communicate short topics and so it has become part of my technical tool belt. I have an account and post from time to time. The textbook was absolutely worth keeping and it is now part of my library.

There are two web design/development classes at UST. The first is web design, which is focused on front end development. I really enjoyed the class because I’ve worked with the web since the mid 1990s and was comfortable working with it. I thought I might not learn a lot but that was not the case. The professor had current technology information and covered a ton of things I was unfamiliar with. We learned about commercial and open source web design applications, but did not have a textbook for the course so I kept the PPT slides for future reference.

Our database class required that we use PowerDesigner, which was my first exposure to that application. I count myself fortunate to have taken 2 database classes as an under grad student, and the professor (Shana) was excellent. The professor that taught our grad course taught more than theory – he taught the material in a way to clarify some concepts overlooked or skipped in under grad database classes. The textbook was one I’d used in the first under grad database course I took, but it was not as useful as the lectures. I would love to see that professor write his own textbook, because his lectures were great and the textbook just wasn’t as useful as the information we received in the classroom.

The second UST web course is web development, and to say it was challenging is a major understatement. This class is focused on server-side web development, and it is assumed you took and knew everything in the first class. Our first homework assignment was to use Python to write a web server, then create a web site that passes images and html content. Whoa! I used my Macbook, which already had Python installed, so I enjoyed the assignment. Apparently I was the only one in class that was not unhappy with the assignment. The homework only got more complicated, and we learned and used PHP, AJAX, MVC, Ruby on Rails (or ASP.NET), and MySQL to develop back end sites. I particularly enjoyed the homework assignment where we had to create a mashup, which was fun and my first exposure to them. I also enjoyed the assignment where we needed to create web content that was viewable via mobile devices, and found it so interesting that I am spending part of this summer trying to learn more about this. Mobile apps rock. We had a team project and the team I was on did an e-commerce application that we hosted on a Amazon EC2 Windows 2008 server instance with the Zend framework installed. Fun. Tough, but fun. We had 1 required book, which was good because it made many references to web content which had current information on the technologies covered in the book. We had a optional book on Ruby on Rails that I also purchased and found it good enough to keep to learn more about this language.

I had intended to go for a second under grad degree in English after completing my Computer Science degree, but now I am so glad I went on for a Masters Degree. The topics are deep, the professors expect a lot but they will go out of their way to help you if you ask for assistance. I won’t have any of the same professors this Fall, but wouldn’t hesitate to take another class with any of them.

I’m reading ahead this summer, but also am taking the experience from the first year and am digging into the tools needed for the topics covered in my fall classes. Yes, I’ve enrolled in 2 classes this Fall and expect I’ll take 2 in the Spring, which is a hard load but it lets me complete the program in 3 – 3.5 years, which is one of my goals. If it takes longer to complete the degree I won’t complain. It took me 3 years to complete my under grad degree and I can handle another 3 – 4 years for a Masters Degree. I’ve spent my career in development and know I will be far better at my job when I complete this program, and would encourage others that consider it to look into it. If it makes you better at your job and the cost and time are reasonable, it is worth the effort.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

I enrolled in Software Engineering and Web Application Design classes in graduate school last fall and completed all coursework, exams, and projects for both classes on December 21, 2010. The class projects really added to the workload of reading and homework assignments – more than I expected. Something I learned from both classes is to start any project in future classes the days they are assigned, because the homework and exams and reading assignments don’t slack up until the semester is over. And yes, mid-term exams are not easy.

I learned a lot in my first semester as a grad student. Both of my classes exposed me to unfamiliar tools and technologies which can only help my career as a developer. I probably grew more technically than any semester or year at the undergrad level.

Knowing what I know now, I’m glad I went on with my education after completing my undergraduate degree. The pace of grad classes is much faster and in far greater depth than comperable undergrad courses, but the knowledge gained is well worth the effort spent reading the textbooks and researching the subjects.

I’m looking forward to resuming school in the spring. I’ve enrolled in 2 classes: Database Systems Management and Design, and Advanced Web Application Development. I had two database classes as an undergraduate, and one of the classes used the same textbook as the grad school class, so I get to save $100+. The only required book for the advanced web book was available on Amazon for $10 + s/h, so my textbook expenses are minor this semester.

I believe this career move is good regardless of the age of the student. The only warning I would give prospective grad students is that you must sacrifice time spent on leisure activities (TV, golf, flying, etc), as you will spend a lot of times hitting the books and working on your computer. You must establish and follow a regular study schedule, and reading ahead of the topics covered in class is a must. I’d suggest new students buy a good laptop, even though we didn’t need them when on campus at St. Thomas.

The experience of being in classes on campus, being with teachers and fellow students is great. I have no doubt I’d much rather attend classes in person than take them from an online university. I look forward to completing my Masters degree and expect I’ll continue to take classes after I’ve graduated, as I truly enjoy being back in school.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

A few months ago I wrote a short piece how a Scottish non-scientist named Chris Monckton has been traveling the globe denying global warming using unverifiable or misrepresented facts. Professor John Abraham of the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering posted a point-by-point rebuttal to one of Monckton’s presentations at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota and Monckton was furious, insulting the Professor (whom he called “a parboiled shrimp”), the university (he called a “half-assed Bible college”), and the head of the university (Father Dease). While insulting the school and university professionals associated with Professor Abraham, Monckton has threatened to sue the professor and the school for defamation. Seems odd that someone publically insults others chooses to insist that he is the one being defamed, doesn’t it?

A new story from Susan Alexander (a writer at UST) addressing this issue was released yesterday. Susan’s piece was well-written and it helps bring the public up to date on the situation with Monckton and global warming. Please go here to read it.

IMHO, the biggest skeptics about global warming seem to either be non-scientists, meteorologists, politicians with a political agenda, or the oil industry. It seems most scientists, including climatologists, agree global warming is very real. Many former skeptics now accept global warming is real, is impacting life on our planet, and feel it must be addressed now before it has too dramatic an effect on the people of our world. Even Monckton can use Wolfram|Alpha to generate graphs like the one below:

I know I’m merely a computer scientist (not as science-focused as a degree in classical studies), but that graph looks like it is climbing, not dropping, during the past 100 years. To reproduce this graph for yourself, click here.

Monckton is entitled to his opinions, but it seems rather odd that a man without climate-related academic credentials is trying to take on a tenured professor with credentials and knowledge. As for me, I think I’ll side with Professor Abraham and accept global warming is a real threat to our species.

A larger concern is that newly elected conservatives are threatening scientists that speak up about global warming. A good article on this was recently published in the Star Tribune. Go here to read it.

For a link to Professor Abraham’s rebuttal to Monckton’s feeble attempt at rebutting the good professor, check out this blog.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

It’s Fall and school finally started. I’m enrolled in the St. Thomas GPS (Graduate Programs in Software) program, where I’m working on my MS in SE (Software Engineering) degree. I have wanted to go to grad school for a long time and this economy made this an easy decision. I feel that advanced degrees, undergrad as well as graduate level, will be necessary to stand out from the crowd of developers in the near future.  Most of the recruiters I’ve spoken with agreed and were enthusiastic I made this career move.

I am enrolled in two classes: Software Engineering, taught by Dr. Chih Lai, and Web Design, taught by Marius Tegomoh. I’ve been to one Software Engineering class and two Web Design classes so far and I’m loving it. The St. Thomas campus and facilities are very nice, the staff seem very polite and considerate, and the chance to finally study computer science at the graduate level is fantastic. Several of the professors have mentioned that there are opportunities to do research projects, which has a lot of appeal but something I’ll postpone until at least one year in school. I am interested in researching the fastest way to transport large quantities of data via the internet, so I have a good reason to try to excel in all of my DB courses.

The first night of class was for my Web Design class, and the room was packed. There were computers for the students to use and the lecture was interesting to me, even though I’ve been working with the web since the mid-1990s. It is always fun to learn how to use new tools to do development and this class promises to be interesting for students of all levels of internet experience. The second day of class was for the Software Engineering class, and it too was packed. The material is so appropriate for people working as developers in the industry, and I had no problem following along as I’d read ahead. One thing Dr. Lai required for SE was that we sign up for a Twitter account, which I’ve never used. I already have 2 blogs plus I’m working on a new website with a friend, so I just don’t have the time to spare on something else, but I went ahead and signed up. I’ll try to write about the experience in this blog over the course of the semester.

What about your education experience? Did you take some college classes, complete your undergrad degree, take some grad school classes, complete a graduate degree, or none of the above? Do you think it would help or harm your career? If you’re considering grad school, look at those with programs for working students, because you can go to school while working and raising a family.

That’s all for now.
Mike

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

There are many schools that offer different programs for people to earn college degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level. I earned my undergraduate degree at Augsburg College, where I attended all but one course on campus. I did History of Jazz online and enjoyed the subject, as well as the interaction with the professor and classmates, but felt I got more out of being in a classroom. I’m now in St. Thomas’  graduate program, and I like seeing the professors and classmates regularly in person. It is nice to see other people with the same goal I have, which encourages me to keep working hard so I too achieve my goal of an advanced degree.

I’ve only spoken with one person that received a degree online (a Masters Degree in Computer Science) and I must admit I wasn’t impressed. This person said he earned a Masters Degree in Computer Science, but he couldn’t write code well enough or fast enough to do it for a living. I have to wonder why he bothered with the time and expense. He said his school (some unaccredited city college in Seattle) didn’t bother teaching computer science theory – they taught the students how to use Visual Studio and some programming languages. I believe he said they spent a total of 2 weeks learning how to write SQL queries… Whoa! I can honestly say my undergrad and grad school profs don’t take that approach. I’m certain other online schools offer a more traditional approach to teaching computer science.

What about your education experience? Did you go to some of the online schools like the University of Phoenix or Capella? Are the schools and programs accredited locally and nationally? How was the experience and would you recommend it to friends and family members? Lastly, did you go online because work/family considerations made it the best course of action? I’d like to hear some positive stories about online schools from students, which we can share with out readers.

What is your take?

by Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Did you know that King Richard the Lionheart did not speak English, that he was only in England soil for 1.5 yrs or the 10 yrs he rules, and he developed one of the best defensive tactics while marching his men from Acre to Jerusalem? I learned that from a book on King Richard, which I read for a report in a Medieval Crusades class I took in the Fall of 2007.

Why did I return to college? The poor economy and bad job market have forced many people to re-evaluate their career options and opt to return to college to earn a new or different degree to make a decent living. I returned to school in 2007, not because the economy, but because I felt the job market was changing into one that would soon require a degree just to be able to apply for a job in technology. Based on what I’ve seen the past year, I believe I made the right choice.

In June of 2007 I enrolled in Augsburg College’s Weekend College (WEC) program, with a declared major of Computer Science (CSC).  Even though I had over 20 years of experience in the IT industry, I was not allowed to skip any of the required classes, so I started with the Intro to Computer Science class (CSC160) that Fall, which was taught by Dr. Kern Sutherland. Dr. Sutherland was a gem. A professor that cared about teaching, not about being the teacher, and her lectures were interesting and thought-provoking. I took the next class in the sequesnce (CSC170 – OO Programming) with Dr. Sutherland and learned a lot, even though most of the concepts were quite familiar to me. The third quarter Dr. Sutherland left school – she retired – so I took the Intro to Networking class taught by Dr. Shana Watters and Data Structures taught by Dr. Larry Crockett – both were interesting, but still a review of familiar topics, and I always found something of interest in the lectures and textbooks for the classes.

My second year (2008-2009) was a lot more challenging. I had Algorithms and Database Design (both taught by Dr. Watters –  a very passionate and enthusiastic teacher that truly cares that her students learn) in the fall, Assembly Language (taught by Dr. Erik Steinmetz – a top notch teacher that knows how to make complicated problems easy to understand) in the Winter, and Logic (taught by Dr. Charley Sheaffer – as compassionate and understanding a person as anyone I’ve met) in the Spring. My last year (2009-2010) CSC classes were Database Architecture (taught by Dr. Watters) in the Fall, Compilers I (taught by Dr. Sheaffer) in the Winter, and Compilers 2 (taught by Dr. Sheaffer) in the Spring of 2010.

Starting with my Data Structures class, I made it a point to use the Eclipse IDE for all classes where we wrote code, since I knew it was widely used by developers in the business arena. Eclipse was powerful – it made it so much easier to find and fix minor bugs in my code – and the UI is very intuitive. I became the unofficial advocate for Eclipse on campus, demonstrating it to fellow students and to interested Professors. To my great pleasure Dr. Sheaffer used it and required the other students in his Compilers classes to use Eclipse for their class project, and I was told that Dr. Watters intends to require her Data Structures students to use it next year when she teaches that class.

The CSC classes were useful, but, as you might guess, the liberal arts requirements were more of a challenge as they took time away from the programming classes. I took three math classes (ending with Discrete), two fine arts classes (History of Jazz – most excellent, and Web Design – a good review of material I knew), but the most daunting classes I took outside of CSC were French 1 and 2. I understand that linguists and psychologists say that the younger you are, the easier it is to learn a foreign language. I’m not just out of high school, so I knew this could be my biggest challenge to getting my degree. I decided to take French (not Farsi nor Norwegian) and took them in the Winter and Spring quarters of 2010 in a class taught by Dr. Issac Joslin. It was tough. As tough as I thought it would be. We met once a week for 3 – 4 hrs per day and we had a lot of material to get through for the course. I’d say 1/2 of the class had 0 exposure to French and 1/2 the class was well-versed in the language. Such a mix made it a difficult class to teach as well as attend, but the subject was interesting enough to make the effort worthwhile. I graduated over a month ago but still practice French when I email my wife. I hope to be able to retain enough to make a trip to Paris next year and be able to communicate with the people we meet on our vacation.

I graduated this Spring – our last class met June 26th and the graduation ceremony was June 27th at the Augsburg campus. We were only allows 5 tickets per student for guests, so my wife, my brother Pat, mother-in-law Ardy, and friends Jim Kunkel and Scott Lackey came to watch me receive my diploma. Afterwords we had an open house to share the joy of the day and our guests were my brother and sister-in-law and two of their grandsons (Derick and Kyle), Ardy, and our friends Dr. Jim Kunkel (from Texas) and Scott and Dennis and Meliisa Kleibur and their lovely daughters, my adopted mother and father, good friends Pam and Larry Ellinghuysen, and good neighrs Stu and Maria Elena Nankin and Barb Salem. We ate well. My brother grilled steaks (using Barb’s grill), and I made Perlou Wraps and corn for lunch, with BBQ ribs for supper. We ate most but not all of the food and have been grazing on frozen leftover ribs the past 4 weeks, but the last ones will be gone by tomorrow. C’est la vie.

Was it easy to return to college? Not a bit. Many of my classmates said they’d been in school for 6-8 years, which was too long for me. I’m a sprinter, not a marathoner, so i pushed through in 3 years. I did well enough that I decided to go on to graduate school, so I am enrolled int he GPS program at the University of St. Thomas. I know this will be as challenging, if not more, than my undergrad degree, but I will take advantage of the opportunity to learn as much as possible in every class I take. School is work, and there are good and bad subjects/teachers/textbooks/classmates, but the point is that you are there to learn, regardless of the distractions. I look back with fondness on my time at Augsburg – I met a lot of good people and good teachers, and I learned a lot.

Would I recommend that others return to college? Yes. It was absolutely worth it, even though I gave up a lot of time watching TV or relaxing with a book since I needed to study, I did something that can’t be taken away. I earned my college degree. I am proud I was able to accomplish this goal and hope that others take the step to make themselves more marketable by going back to school. It isn’t easy, but the things you learn will stay with you forever.

I can promise you will work very hard to get a degree, but I can also promise you will be thrilled when you take that graduation walk to the auditorium to receive a diploma. And the next time someone asks  “are you a college grad?” you can say with a smile “Yes I am.”