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[Pacific Lutheran Scene]

Leadership and Service

On the cutting edge: PLU Computer Science & Computer Engineering students gain encryption skills

By Drew Brown, Scene editor


Richard Spillman and his dog, Jolie

There was only one rule for the final exam in Richard Spillman's Computer Science 490 class, Computer Security-wear your T-shirt. Working in teams, and wearing official class shirts, students were given encrypted information that when decoded, would send them on their next campus mission. To pass their final exam, students had to break all the codes.

Students were learning an essential in modern echnological education-the security of our information. Spillman's students, like many others in Computer Science & Computer Engineering (CSCE) department courses, are learn how computers can be compromised-and protected.

"It's important for students to understand encryption system weaknesses," Spillman said. "Part of the 'war on terrorism' has to involve defending against cyberterrorists." PLU CSCE is one of the few Computer Science departments in the area to emphasize in its curriculum understanding the most contemporary computer security issues.

The department is taking responsibility for maintaining its own standards for excellence in all areas of computer technology. Starting in 1989, CSCE made the rare choice to maintain professional accreditation for its BS program. PLU is the only private university in the state of Washington accredited. Last fall, the Computer Science Accreditation Commission of the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board visited PLU for their four-year review and the response was again positive.

"It signals to students that we're in the mainstream-that we keep up with the latest information, how we teach and what we teach," Spillman said. "It also helps students when they go look for a job, to have the backing of an accredited program."

The Center for Learning and Technology (CLT), which has come to the forefront of university planning, will build an even stronger CSCE department. Spillman is one of the department's professors now stationed in Rieke, while others are in the math and computer science building. When the CLT is complete, CSCE will have all its faculty under the same roof, as well as state-of-the-art technology in offices, labs and classrooms.

"It will obviously have a major impact on how we grow, and how we teach," Spillman said. "It's going to be great."



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