Computer Programming

Computer Programming was among the first programs at the college and first offered classes in the fall of 1967 at the West Des Moines campus. The program was identified as one that would have appeal to students and excellent employment potential, based on the large number of Central Iowa businesses and state offices who were expanding their data processing applications.

The first College catalogue describes the program:

The Computer Programmer program is a seven-quarter program designed to qualify the students for positions as programmers and programmer analysts. The program emphasizes both systems programming and applications programming. The student studies several programming languages, various levels of operating systems, various types of computer systems, and peripheral equipment available in the field.

Note that in this era, computer programming referred to mainframe computers, as the desktop computer we know today was yet to be invented.

The curriculum, based on a national model, prepared students to function as qualified mainframe programmers and system analysis with knowledge and skill to program in COBOL, RPG, BAL and FORTRAN languages. Most were employed initially in programmer positions that were numerous and in high demand in the Des Moines area. Many became systems analysts after gaining work experience.

Richard Arrowood was the first program chair. He previously had been an instructor in a similar program at a technical college in Ottumwa and left a programming and system's analysis position at the Iowa Department of Education. Jim Dowis was the first instructor in the program. He was a computer instructor at Des Moines Technical High School, and assumed the program chair role when Richard left the institution in 1973. Later faculty included John Wilson, Larry Woods, Ralph Keul, Bill Lee, Teresa Phares, Bob Richards, Mike Evans, John Wagner, Cheryl Goodrich, Fred Bergamo, Kerry Jo Ostring, John Daniels, Jean Able and Rich Chorley. It was difficult to recruit qualified faculty members since jobs in the industry were numerous and the salary levels were high compared to many of the other occupational faculty.

The program was initially located in the former grocery store in West Des Moines. During the first year of operation there was no computer available to test programs. The curriculum was modified slightly to move the general education and theory courses into the first year. A year later the program moved to the First United Methodist Church in Ankeny. In the spring of 1968 it moved to the lower campus in Ankeny where an IBM 360 had been installed in a climate-controlled room. The initial cost of the IBM 360-30 with 64k, was a major expenditure and was essential to support the program. Two years later the program moved to the new business building on the upper campus where it remained for many years.

The advisory committee played a key role in the development and growth of the program. Most members were in charge of data processing operations in medium to large companies in the Des Moines area, especially insurance companies, banks, government and Iowa State University. The committee provided input on equipment, curriculum and operations and assisted in student job placement.
Initially one program faculty member, Mike Evans, was assigned to provide institutional computer services to the college as a part of his job. He worked with the second year data programmer's class to write programs for the college payroll system. Another faculty member, Bob Richards, was the director of data processing when Mike took another job. It soon became apparent that the growing demands for computer services were not compatible with instruction and a separate data processing service department with full time employees was established.

The program was a key source of employees for the information technology in the Des Moines area and the state of Iowa. Many students continued their education, with company support through tuition assistance, and subsequently achieved bachelors and master's degree and moved into leadership positions in their companies.

Student placement in programmer jobs was high from the first graduating class. The demand for graduates continued for many years as companies expanded their computer support activities.

The program functioned for many years under the initial curriculum. However, the structure for providing information technology services has change markedly and there is no longer a need for the limited skills the original program provided. The program now has a number of options, based primarily on PC desktop applications, programming, updating and debugging.