Computer Information Systems: A window into the future

Jan. 2, 2014, Written by Breann Inglesby, Communications Intern

This fall, Trinity diversified its academic programs by launching its first bachelor of science major: Computer Information Systems (CIS).

The degree will be taught from the perspective of humancentered design, also known as Informatics.

Combining information, technology and people, the field of Informatics studies the processing of information so that a company or a person may manage data in a more userfriendly, accessible way. In plain terms, Trinity’s CIS degree combines computer science and data analysis with the human experience.

Over a year ago, Dr. Betsi Little, Professor & Chair of Psychology and a member of the Academic Committee, was tasked to research a new major, and after significant study Little chose the field of CIS/Informatics. In addition to there being very few programs of this nature offered in the area, Little also saw the need for majors in the field throughout the Northwest. As a field, Infomatics is revolutionizing the way we purchase groceries, search Google and interact with advertising online.

It can help make doctor visits more efficient and offer better solutions for preventing pandemic outbreaks on other continents. Any place in our society where people interact with technology, there is also a need for an informatics specialist to help determine whether the technology is working efficiently, interfacing well with people, and conforming well to the company or organization’s needs.

Computer Information Systems is Trinity’s first STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) major, thus presents new opportunities for students, as well as for the college.

Misael Salmeron is a sophomore majoring in CIS, and like others in the program, he’s glad the college has decided to offer a new major in this field.

“STEM programs are important for new students and for the community. We depend on technology to keep up with the changing world and to move forward. Technology is our past, present and future, but it also requires human interaction to make sense of and improve upon it,” Salmeron said.

Informatics is one of the fastest growing and changing industries in the world. With hundreds of positions opening daily, informatics graduates are sought after for jobs that vary from work in forensics, analyzing data on behavior in psychology and discerning how to make websites more user-friendly and secure for companies like Amazon and Microsoft.

Mark Barnum, program director for Computer Information Systems and an instructor for several courses, explains that what sets Trinity’s CIS program apart from other schools is its emphasis on ethics and the human aspect and implications of data. The program also seeks to help graduates be flexible, up-to-date, and able to adapt, making them great assets for any number of potential employers.

“The skills the students are learning here can be used in almost every business,” Barnum said.

In addition to helping interpret data and learning flexibility with information technology, CIS students at Trinity also considerethical implications of information. They take classes in ethics and security very early in their program.

“We want Trinity students to be good, ethical people. We want them to think about and understand the impact they will have,” Little said.

While other schools with Computer Information Systems programs place emphasis on the programming and database aspects of the field, Trinity’s program has been designed to be more general, and for good reason.

“Being general in our CIS program, we’ve set up a more flexible program. The field of informatics is always growing and changing,” Little said.

Junior Constance Wohlford, who transferred to Trinity this fall, has had experience working in data and organization for years. What drew her to Trinity’s CIS program was the flexibility and integration it offered.

“To be successful, there has to be close communication between CIS, Communications, Business, Visual Communications and other departments. They need to work well together to understand people. Trinity does that. While looking at other universities in the area that offered a degree in informatics, I noticed those bridges were harder to cross,” Wohlford said.

Current students in Trinity’s CIS program are excited about the opportunities that the major affords them.

“Information doesn’t do us any good if it‘s in a box somewhere. It needs to be accessible and shared in order to be useful,” Wohlford said.

Salmeron agrees, and sees Computer Information Systems as an avenue through which he can help reverse some of the ways technology has negatively affected our culture and our world.

“Technology has damaged the environment in the past, but it has also been used to fix these problems. For instance, think of old cars’ effect on the environment versus new cars. That‘s what I want to do. I want to fix the damage on the environment and on the community,” Salmeron said.

Click here to learn more about Trinity's Computer Information Systems degree.