Thursday, September 15, 2016

Throwback Thursday: The Computer Comes to Campus

New students: Have you gotten used to your Mac yet?

Seton Hill has a world-recognized technology program, and its commitment to being on the cutting edge is nothing new. Check out this clipping about "an intelligent, exciting newcomer to campus" in July 1980 (text transcribed below image):

Marjorie Knox and Russ Walker welcome an intelligent, exciting newcomer to campus.


It was an April day in 1918. Seton Hill's charter was up for consideration. The then-junior college had requested the power to confer bachelor degrees in art, music, and science. Two months later, the request had been reviewed and the charter was approved... with one stipulation. Because of what the reviewers considered "the unlikelihood of a sufficient demand for science by the students of a college for women," Seton Hill's power to grant the bachelor of science degree was limited to the field of home economics. 

Since that time, Seton Hill has used the ideals of its early education pioneers as criteria for development. Degrees are now awarded in biology, chemistry, mathematics, psychology, and sociology. Laboratory facilities have been expanded and modernized. And, on a recent July morning, some 62 years after the college's initial charter-reviewers disclaimed the need for science in a women's college, Seton Hill added its boldest and most sophisticated piece of scientific equipment. A computer.

A computer on campus has long been the goal of many faculty members and administrators. A five-year institutional planning process, begun during 1976-1977, identified as a high priority the need "to strengthen academic programs which are attracting students, and to develop new programs, especially those with career-interest." Specific educational needs were partly assessed by feedback from alumnae. Recommendations of business and industry recruiters and professional societies were also considered.

A college-developed proposal to the National Science Foundation CAUSE (Comprehensive Assistance to Undergraduate Science Education) Program, and its subsequent grand award-- $114,435-- allowed Seton Hill to greatly expand its original plan for academic use of the computer.

A Digital Equipment Corporation PDP 11/34 computer was installed in July and will begin its use as an educational tool this fall. It will prepare students for science careers, and for life in this challenging new world of push-button banking, two-way cable TV, and sophisticated communication systems.

Through a multi-disciplinary approach, virtually the total student body (95%) will achieve computer literacy over the next four-year period. "Computer literacy is as basic a skill," says College President Eileen Farrell, "as facility with written and spoken language. An understanding of the computer and its application to almost every phase of our lives is rapidly becoming an essential element of a liberal education."

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