The Voice: Summer 2002

The Voice

New computer networking program begins next fall

By Sally Jongsma

Students who enroll in the computer networking program also have opportunities to work with the college computer services staff and its networking system.A new program in computer networking will be available to incoming freshmen next fall. The two-year associate of arts program was recently approved as the fifty-seventh program of study offered at Dordt College.

Reports from the registrar and admissions offices in recent years have indicated that interest in computer networking is high.

“This program meets a significant need,” says Dr. Charles Adams, dean of the natural sciences division. “As technology has grown and expanded in our world, different levels of theoretical insight are needed in the field.” Businesses and organizations don’t need only theoretically educated employees, they need people who can keep their computers running smoothly.
“More and more students are really interested in computers, but don’t enjoy or may not be successful in the more theoretical aspects of the field,” he says. “We need to offer them that opportunity from a Christian perspective.”
A survey done in high schools that have a tradition of sending students to Dordt has confirmed that many students are interested in such a program. And many of those currently enroll at community colleges to find such programs. As outlined at present, Dordt’s new program would prepare students to help businesses and organizations set up and maintain networks for their computers.

“This is really the hot issue in the business world. Even relatively small organizations and businesses are finding it beneficial to link their computers,” says Computer Science Professor Dennis De Jong. He expects that the demand from businesses for such graduates will be high.

With the new two-year degree, graduates will be able to assemble networks and even help with some designing of the network, De Jong says. In a small company the graduate might be able to work as the network administrator. Computer science alumni also have urged the college to offer such a program. In a survey done by the computer science department for their departmental program review recently, professors were encouraged to add such a component to the program.

The two-year computer networking program, while similar in its hands-on approach to programs offered at technical colleges, will give students a stronger base in both computer science and general education courses, De Jong says. That will make them more versatile employees and better-informed Christians entering the workplace. And the two-year program is designed so that students who change their minds and decide to continue for a four-year computer science major can easily do so.

In addition, offering the new program allows Dordt to expand its current computer science program, by increasing the number of courses offered and the number of faculty with different areas of expertise.

“Dordt has always been convinced that its mission is to serve the community of believers by providing an education that prepares students for service in Christ’s kingdom,” says President Carl E. Zylstra. “We need to look at how we can best do that as student gifts and interests change and as society’s needs change.”

Zylstra is pleased that the program is being offered because he believes it fills a need similar to that of Dordt’s two-year secretarial science and agriculture programs: it serves students with a broader range of talents and interests. It also fits with strengths and resources the institution already has.

After getting to know Dan Blom ('99, left), Officer Edwards of the Des Moines Police Academy told Blom he'd have to check out Dordt College.  Blom graduated from the academy this spring.The Dordt College board of trustees has also approved a new four-year program in criminal justice. The new criminal justice major will be an interdisciplinary major and prepare students for either entry-level positions or further studies. Students who graduate will eventually work as police officers, probation officers, correctional officers, or court workers. But they will leave college with a solid base in sociology and other social science courses that will give them the tools to become leaders in their field.

“Competition to get into police academies is getting tougher,” says Quentin Van Essen, director of admissions. “We’re told that many institutions look first at college graduates.”

According to Dr. Jasper Lesage, dean of the social science division, a similar theme kept coming up as college officials talked to criminal justice consultants about the new program. In conversations with a former FBI official, a corrections officer, a criminal justice program administrator, and a legal counsel for a corrections officers association, each consultant stressed the need for an interdisciplinary program that will prepare students to go beyond entry-level positions and eventually contribute in supervisory ways to the criminal justice system.

The need for trained workers in the criminal justice system is great. The United States prison population is 1.8 million and growing. Lesage and others involved in setting up the program believe that graduates with a Reformed biblical perspective can make a valuable contribution to discussions about why we have such a large prison population, why we structure our criminal justice system the way we do, why we criminalize certain behavior, and what we can do to reform the system.

“This program fits very well with what Dordt tries to do—prepare students to make an impact in areas of our society where the need for leadership is great,” says Lesage.

Zylstra cites the introduction of programs like engineering, agriculture, and social work and, more recently, graphic design, as examples of programs introduced to prepare students to serve in their contemporary world.

Zylstra and other college officials are also convinced of the need for Christians to be working in the criminal justice system.

The work and writings of people like Charles Colson, he believes, have helped us see more clearly both the need for Christians to work out of their faith and principles in criminal justice and the benefit of having Christians minister to people who are often looking for direction and meaning in their lives.

The search is currently on for a new faculty member to teach in the program, with faculty from other social science departments also teaching some of the courses. Based on the results of that search the college hopes to begin the program in the fall of 2003.

Such new programs are crucial to providing Christian students with a good education, Zylstra believes. “We need to ensure that our education makes use of the gifts of the students who wish to enroll and that it meets the needs of the community we serve.”