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The MUM Computer Professionals Program is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The number of students currently enrolled in the program has reached a record number—over 1000, including students on campus and in practicum positions.

Students practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique in class

The program is wildly popular among international students, who have come from 78 countries so far, and the program is expected to continue growing. Craig Pearson, MUM executive vice-president, described the program as a “win-win-win situation.” Students win because they earn an American degree and gain work experience with a US company, and the companies win because they benefit from highly skilled professionals. “The University wins because the students are full-paying, talented, and serious-minded, and they contribute to our wonderful international diversity,” said Dr. Pearson.

What makes the program so successful? The MS in computer science degree MUM offers is unique because students study eight months on campus and spend up to two years working as practicum students in paid positions at US companies while finishing their degrees via distance education. This structure is very attractive to computer professionals who want to study and gain practical experience in the US, because they are able to pay for their education from their salaries.

This structure began in 1996, when program leaders Greg Guthrie and Keith Levi, along with Elaine Guthrie, director of international admissions, decided to approach Fairfield businesses to hire students from the program. They had 14 students in the first year. Interest in the program began to grow, and soon the Fairfield job market became saturated. In 1999 Ron Barnett joined the team as marketing manager and began approaching large companies outside Fairfield. His campaign was successful, and in 2000 enrollment jumped to 112.

Enrollment further increased when new marketing director Craig Shaw began a social media campaign in 2008. Interest in the program has continued to increase ever since. Finding practicum opportunities for hundreds of students is not a small task. That’s what the placement and career center takes care of by educating students in US business practices and coaching them on interviewing and resume-writing skills. In the past five years, 99 percent of students have found practicum positions.

When students apply to the program, developing their consciousness is not high on their list. “But once they’re here, they come to understand and appreciate the Transcendental Meditation technique,” said Greg Guthrie, dean of the College of Mathematics and Computer Science. “When they’re in their practicum phase and send us regular progress reports, many talk about how challenging and busy their work is and how the Transcendental Meditation technique helps.”