On Sunday, August 21, first-year students enrolled at UNC Charlotte's College of Computing and Informatics (CCI) and School of Data Science (SDS) gathered in the Barnhardt Student Activities Center Salons for Convocation. It was the largest in-person event CCI has hosted in more than two years. The enthusiasm of the crowd was infectious and set a spirited tone for the year.
Students arrived for registration early, each receiving a CCI t-shirt and a raffle ticket for a chance to win an iPad donated by Bank of America.
Once gathered in the wide-open and mostly empty salons, students were greeted by CCI Director of Communications Mike Fresina, followed by SDS Communications and Events Manager Lindsay Lennon who, along with Dean’s Ambassador Stephanie Navarro, got the crowd moving with a series of stretches and light calisthenics.
Next on stage was Interim Dean Bojan Cukic, whose greeting and message reminded students to make the most of their time at CCI, taking advantage of the school's commitment to provide the very best in computing education while also remembering to enjoy the journey.
Following Cukic was SDS Executive Director Doug Hague who managed to lead students in a Freddie Mercury inspired chant. Mary Lou Maher, professor and director of the Integrated Critical Core and Center for Education Innovation, was next on stage. Maher offered an overview of CCI’s academic experience and encouraged students to engage with each other, early and often. Also presenting were Lauren Slane, who teaches ITSC-1600, a required computing professionals seminar class; Academic Advisor Ilana Rivkovic; and Business Partners Program Director, Kay Read.
Next came a rousing session of "This or That," which asked students to decide between two disparate options and move to the side of the room designated for their choice. With that many people moving about, changing sides of the room, the salons were a bustle of activity. Some of the choices were: Meeting Someone New In Person or Online, Reading on a Screen or on Paper, Caring for Four Toddlers or Two Elderly Men and Being Stuck in an Elevator with Someone who Won't Make Eye Contact or Someone who Won't Stop Talking. Throughout, the groups defended their choices, interacting with each other and Fresina, who posed questions and polled the students to see if he could sway their decisions.
Before students were released to enjoy pizza, more time together and the university’s convocation in Halton Arena, Rick Scot, a member of CCI’s Dean’s Advisory Board and Cyber Crime Senior Specialist at Bank of America, spoke about the ever-expanding employment opportunities for computer science graduates. Scot encouraged them to apply for internships for as soon as the summer after their first year. Then, he pulled the winning raffle ticket for the iPad and suspense rose with the reading of each number. Eventually, with one number remaining, only five students were left and came to the front of the room. Ironically, Aiden Weyandt, who vociferously defended his preference for PCs over Mac products in “This or That,” had his number called by Scot and was the winner. The crowd erupted as Weyandt took possession of his new iPad.
If their first experience is any indication how this class of CCI and SDS newcomers will spend its time at UNC Charlotte, there are exciting and innovative days ahead.