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Tacoma’s Technical Institute comes of age

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on May 24, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
May 24, 2013 6:29 pm

Few people – even at the University of Washington Tacoma – recall how intensely involved The News Tribune was in the creation of the campus.

In the 1980s, this opinion page ceaselessly hounded lawmakers to create the UWT. A former publisher, the late Kelso Gillenwater, helped plan the state system of branch campuses as a member of the state Higher Education Coordinating Board.

We got into fray again when Prof. Ed Lazowska, a computer science leader at the UW in Seattle, started talking about building an applied-science technical institute in Tacoma. Two redoubtable civic leaders, Herb Simon and Bill Philip, led the lobbying and fund-raising efforts that made the Institute of Technology a reality in 2001. I like to think that our barrage of commentary in favor of the plan did some good, too.

The infant of 2001 is now a 12-year-old, and how he has grown.

A threesome connected with the university – Director Robert Friedman, software entrepreneur Andrew Fry and Asst. Prof. Ankur Teredesai – paid us a visit Thursday along with Bruce Kendall, CEO of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County.

They said that Microsoft and other major information companies are now hungrily recruiting graduates from the Technical Institute, which has produced more than 800 alums to date. The school offers master’s and bachelor’s degrees in computer science, computer engineering and cybersecurity. Five hundred and twenty students are now enrolled – the school started with 30 – and competition for the seats has become fierce.

These are the kind of people who help build information-based enterprises. For the most part, the grads appear to be putting their talents to use in the Puget Sound area.

Friedman told us that enrollment increased 29 percent last year. He said that the size of the faculty is expected to double over the next two years.

None of this was quite a surprise. We expected the Technical Institute to succeed wildly – the idea was too good to fail. Please excuse a little parental pride in the way the baby is turning out.

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