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Maharishi Universityof Management

Interview with the Director

Deciding on an IT education is an important decision with major implications for your future. How do you choose?

We sat down with Michael Zijlstra to find out what makes the MUM Computer Science program stand out from the rest. Michael is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Director of the undergraduate Computer Science program at Maharishi University of Management.

 

How does this program compare to similar programs at other schools?

The Computer Science program at MUM follows the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) guidelines for computer science education. Because of this, our program features many of the same subjects that you would find at any other university. Like other universities, we also offer a combined BS and MS in Computer Science. The difference is that we also offer Consciousness-Based education. It’s really a very different environment here—one that’s conducive to many kinds of growth.

Why should someone choose this program over any other?

The unique approach to education at MUM creates a certain atmosphere on campus, so the learning and social environment is unlike any other.

Our aim is to develop the whole student, resulting in a well-rounded person who is relaxed and strong, with the flexibility to do well on the job, but also in all of life.

You’ll be surrounded by an entire university full of students, faculty, and staff dedicated to developing themselves in the highest values of life, in every area of life.

There’s really nowhere else you can experience this kind of holistic development while studying the practical information you need for your chosen career.

What does the program cover? What can a student expect to know at the end of this program?

Students learn all the current IT industry knowledge used in major corporations throughout the country.

The undergraduate Computer Science program provides a basis of programming knowledge onto which students can add specific skills needed by employers while on the job. The two electives the student chooses also develop specific skills.

The core of the program consists of Procedural Programming, Object Oriented Programming, Functional Programming, Data Structures and Algorithms, Computer Organization and Architecture, and Theory of Computation. In addition to these, students take electives in Databases, Web Application Programming, Operating Systems, Networking, Security, Parallel Programming, Graphics, Compiler Construction, and Software Testing. At the end of the program students are required to take a course in Software Development before they start on their senior project.

What were the senior projects last year?

  • Card game for Android phones and tablets
  • Online chat application with custom encryption
  • Application for a meal delivery service
  • Web application to rate and discuss movies
  • Web application to sell sportswear

Would you say the students in your program have an edge over the competition when they graduate?

Our deep and holistic approach to education—along with the unique environment and culture on the MUM campus—develops the whole person in sometimes unexpected ways. Our students find they grow much more than just professionally.

This positive, holistic growth is seen in many facets of their lives, and that makes a stronger professional candidate upon graduation. We train our students to be strong at every level. Sure, skills are important, but they aren’t a constant and will always be changing.

In this Forbes article on The 15 Traits of the Ideal Employee, not a single trait mentioned has to do with any particular skill. The article encouraged employers to “be flexible on background requirements, but continue to be stringent on personality traits.”

What matters most is who you are when you graduate. The goal at MUM is for students to become the best versions of themselves in every way. That’s true for the entire university.

What kinds of jobs are your students getting after graduation?

  • BS+MS Rails Developer at BES
  • BSCS BS  Senior SQL Server DBA at Starbucks
  • BS+MS  Assistant Professor of Computer Science at MUM
  • BS+MS  Head of IT at The Raj Resort – Medical Health Spa
  • BS+MS+MS Software Engineer University of Chicago
  • BS  Head of IT at the TM Global Marketing Group
  • BS+MS Head of Software Development eHealth Systems Africa
  • BS+MS+PhD Haskell Application Engineer at FP Complete
  • BS  Developer at Treehouse
  • BS+MS  Software Engineer at B&C Raamdecoratie
  • BS  Self Employed
  • BS  Software Engineer at LiveRamp (perhaps soon Google)
  • BS Software Development Intern at Global ID
  • MS Cambridge Investment Research

Many of these people have risen through the ranks, and/or started their own businesses to get where they are now.

Why Transcendental Meditation? Is it part of the Computer Science program?

The Transcendental Meditation technique gives our students deep rest and relaxation that helps them counter the stress of work, and of life in general. It is a part of the Computer Science program, and most of our undergrads specifically come to MUM because of the meditation. Many students in our CompPro graduate program have reported a deepening appreciation of the TM technique as a tool for helping them stay balanced, focused and rested in the often stressful and challenging environment of a new and demanding job.

As successful MUM computer programming graduate Ali Alrahahleh says, “When my real life started, and my responsibilities accumulated, I really needed to have some moments of quietness in my daily routine. Within all the chaos of the city, and my fast-pace life, my twenty-minute meditations were awesome moments of peace, life and quietness. I could rejuvenate myself and my mind twice daily, and that twenty minutes gave me much energy to continue my routine, doing sports and working. It made me so creative and made my thinking vast.

I think the Transcendental Meditation® technique was the best thing I ever learned in my life, and now I see its effects much more. Stress is a major player in software programming; deadlines make people unstable, angry and desperate to finish on time. With the help of TM, I tend to be more focused and calm most of the time, and a high performer. People in my company asked me about the secret, so I pointed them to articles about TM.

Read more about CompPro graduate Ali Alrahahleh.

You’re in a rural location. How does this compare to other, more exciting environments?

MUM features a lively, creative, and international student body. The relaxed and pleasant atmosphere here is conducive to focused learning, along with health and well being for students, staff and faculty. You have to experience it (see MUM Visitor Weekends)

Though it’s a small town in Iowa, Fairfield is surprisingly entrepreneurial. In 2003 we were named “The Most Entrepreneurial Community in America (10,000 population and under)” by the National Association of Small Communities. In 2004 we were named “Iowa’s Most Entrepreneurial Community.” In 2006, Mother Earth News included Fairfield in its article “12 Great Places You’ve Never Heard Of,” and Fairfield was voted one of Iowa’s Great Places.

Fairfield has also been named an Iowa Blue Zones demonstration site to achieve greater longevity for our citizens.

We have an extensive 17-mile trail system that encircles the town, and our downtown is host to a “1st Fridays Art Walk” each month.

In 2011 we were visited by Oprah Winfrey and featured on her OWN Network. Ms. Winfrey learned the practice of Transcendental Meditation and came to discover the community where Maharishi University of Management has attracted practitioners of TM from all over the world.

This a level of innovation and dynamism you rarely see in a community of this size. Some of our students choose to get involved with local companies while they’re studying, and some stay here and work for Fairfield-based companies.

What does it take to be a successful IT employee?

When narrowing down a group of job applicants with similar skills sets, what makes a winning candidate stand out are qualities like confidence, creativity, positive attitude, along with strong leadership and people skills. Yes, it’s important to get the skills. But in today’s competitive job market, IT skills aren’t enough. Be the whole package, and you’ll have more opportunity for success.

What advice do you have to someone seeking an education in IT?

Think of your time in school as an opportunity to build a strong foundation for your career, but also your whole life. You want and deserve the very best for yourself, on every level. Get a top-level education with the best opportunities available to you. Develop yourself completely, and you’ll have the edge in the marketplace, along with the skills and habits to enjoy a happy and successful life.

Michael Zijlstra
  • Assistant Professor of Computer Science

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