By Tricia Brown
UI Strategic Communication

Engineering wasn’t the reason Caitlin Danielson chose the University of Iowa. Growing up in Iowa City, her dream was to become a member of the Iowa Dance Team.

“I remember being a little girl and going to a UI Homecoming event and seeing the Iowa Dance Team perform,” she says. “I told my mom that’s what I wanted to do, and that never went away. My goal in high school was to become a good enough dancer to make the Iowa Dance Team, and I did it.”

She did that, and more. This weekend, Danielson will become the first UI student to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, majoring in computer science and engineering.

The new degree program was approved by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa on June 9. The degree is a joint effort between the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. At the time of its approval, only 11 other U.S. universities offered accelerated degrees in computer science and engineering. It is the first in the state of Iowa.

“This new major will prepare students for a variety of emerging careers and for advanced study in the many areas demanding computational and engineering skill sets,” says Er-Wei Bai, UI professor and departmental executive officer of electrical and computer engineering.

College of Engineering commencement

Noon, Sunday, Dec. 18, Hancher Auditorium

Featured speaker will be Mona Garvin, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and a researcher at the UI Institute for Biomedical Imaging. Garvin, BS ’03/BSE ’03/MS ’04/PhD ’08, is the 2013 recipient of the College of Engineering’s Teaching Award. Her major area of research interest is ophthalmic image analysis.

Danielson was in her fourth year at the UI majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering when the program was approved. Because it perfectly suited her interests and strengths, she says she met with professors and advisers and determined she would only need one additional semester of classes to earn the degree.

“I was overjoyed to be able to graduate with this new degree,” she says.

In addition to the Iowa Dance Team, Danielson has been involved in the Students To Assist Recruitment (STAR) student organization through the UI Office of Admissions, has worked as a reservationist in the UI admissions office, and served as a teaching assistant and a research assistant in the College of Engineering. Those opportunities, she says, improved her communication skills and made her a well-rounded job candidate.

“I’ve always been more introverted, and these things have helped me grow as a person in so many different ways,” she says. “I improved my communication skills with things completely outside of engineering.”

Working as a research assistant confirmed she was on the right career path.

“With this job and being able to work with data and with different people and different projects, it opened my eyes to everything a career in data can offer,” she says.

After graduation, Danielson will work on a freelance web development project while searching for a full-time position. She says that while the opportunity to graduate with this new degree was a bit serendipitous, it fulfills another one of her dreams.

“Everything involves data, and I enjoy working with it,” she says. “I can go a lot of different places and have a lot of different experiences. That’s pretty exciting to me.”