Big gift, new department

With an alumni boost, computer science gains department status at the Case School of Engineering. 

As the skills required of electrical engineers and computer scientists mounted and diverged, many had seen a need to split the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science—allowing for a keener focus on emerging fields.

The change came this year, with the quiet creation of the Computer and Data Sciences Department, which was spun off from a renamed Department of Electrical, Computer and Systems Engineering. In December, the university amped up the volume, announcing that a Case alumnus made the new department possible with a $5 million gift.

Kevin J. Kranzusch ’90, a California software executive and gaming pioneer, said the industry had changed much since he earned his computer engineering degree nearly 30 years ago, and that he wants to help Case take advantage of the opportunities.

“I’m so excited to be a part of this effort,” he told The Daily, the university’s online news source. “Computer sciences, especially AI and machine learning, are the future, and I hope this can play a part in helping our students to excel in those areas.”

Kranzusch’s vision meshes with the Case School of Engineering and Dean Venkataramanan “Ragu” Balakrishnan.

“These days, computing and data pervades everything that we do,” the dean told a recent board meeting of the Case Alumni Association. “That means there’s huge potential for impact on the research side of things.”

Plans for splitting EECS began under the interim deanship of James McGuffin-Cawley, PhD, who said he weighed advice from alumni, including members of the Silicon Valley Task Force. The new department is Case’s response to a spike in computer science enrollment and rising opportunities in data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning and supercomputing.

“It’s really to align us with the future, and provide the right opportunities for today’s and tomorrow’s students,” McGuffin-Cawley said.

He added that the new department will lend Case-style collaboration to the study of computer science, as CS faculty will continue to work closely with electrical engineering and with researchers and faculty across campus.

Professor Jing Li, PhD, will serve as interim chair as the school conducts a national search for the inaugural chair of the new Computer & Data Sciences Department. Li said he expects the new department to collaborate not only with engineering departments but with researchers working in business, nursing, biology and social work.

“Computer science and data science are needed by so many departments,” Li said. “We can work with anyone, really, who needs to generate data and get information out of data.”

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