It was in high school that Dr. Eric Shade decided he wanted to make computer science his career. This path led him to Missouri State where he has helped many students become better programmers over the years and has taught almost every class offered in the computer science program. It is this experience, broad knowledge of all areas of computer science and ability to work well in committees, that landed him the role as chair of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) computer science major field test committee. This committee designs the questions that are on the comprehensive test taken by senior level college students all over the country.
Shade had been a committee member in the past because of his expertise in programming languages and operating systems and was familiar with how the process worked. The committee, made up of faculty from all over the country, met at the ETS headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey. As chair of the committee, Shade served as a mediator during deliberation of test questions. Each committee member wrote 10 questions in addition to over 100 questions that were submitted by faculty who were not committee members or by ETS.
“One exam that covers all fundamental areas of computer science is challenging to develop. To come up with a set of questions that we think any computer science program should have covered is our goal,” said Shade. “You do not want to ask really specialized questions because they may not have been covered in every program.”
The exam is kept under lock and key while it is being revised by committee members. Though students do not see the test ahead of time, they should be able to recognize problems they see on the test. “There should not be any surprises for our students. They should have seen an example of a question in at least one of their courses. Now whether they remember it or not is a different question,” said Shade.
Shade feels many things make the Missouri State computer science program stand out among others across the country: small classes, full accreditation, regularly revised curriculum and streamlined introductory courses all aid in the success of students. “Programming and computer science generally are fun for a lot of people, and there are some who would do it no matter what the pay was like,” said Shade. “As it turns out, the pay is pretty good!”
Shade does not encourage students to major in computer science purely for financial reasons. “I want students who enjoy what they're doing.” Careers in the field of computer science are readily available, and students in the program are regularly sought after, according to Shade. “Jobs are there, and computer science is not going anywhere. A lot of companies are having a hard time finding good people.”
Shade has also helped to increase course offerings and give students more career options. He has served as an executive producer on large student video game projects, with development teams consisting of a lead designer, artists and programmers. In collaboration with the art department, he has developed an introductory course sequence in video game design and development. The sequence is intended to be useful by itself, but is also designed as preparation for students participating in large projects, so that all members of the development team will have a common background.
Whether he is designing questions for students all over the country, helping students with program development or developing new courses, Dr. Shade is committed to helping the computer science department at Missouri State produce quality professionals.