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Delvin Defoe's 13-month Sabbatical Inspires Curriculum Innovations in Computer Science and Software Engineering.

Monday, January 25, 2016
Delvin Defoe Articleimage

Bringing it back to class: Delvin Defoe, associate professor of computer science and software engineering, shares what he learned during a sabbatical at SEP with his students.

A stronger emphasis on software testing and a new course in web services development are two important benefits from a recently completed private industry sabbatical by Associate Professor of Computer Science and Software Engineering Delvin Defoe.

In July, Defoe finished a 13-month stint with Software Engineering Professionals (SEP), a software product development and services company based in Carmel, Indiana. The goal of such sabbaticals is to keep Rose-Hulman faculty knowledgeable about the latest trends in their fields.

Among other things, Defoe found SEP places heightened emphasis on software testing.

"There was nothing that wasn't submitted to testing," Defoe says, adding, as a result, he is working with department colleagues to make testing a larger component of every course they teach.

In addition, in winter quarter, Defoe plans to teach a new course in web services development, also a product of his experience with SEP. He plans to bring to his students the insights he gained about developing independent "front end" and "back end" components to a web application. Typically, the "front end," which refers to the access point that a client or user sees, is linked to a specific type of "back end," which is the application component that resides on a server. For example, Microsoft "front end" apps typically will not work with any other "back end" without some massaging, he says.

Now, Defoe, through working at SEP, learned how to develop "back end" programming that can be coupled with any type of "front end" application.

"Some of our students were already familiar with this through their internships," Defoe says. "They had been asking us to introduce it into a course."

Defoe, a native of the Caribbean island nation of Dominica, concluded his sabbatical in July. SEP was founded in 1988 by Rose-Hulman alumni, including current CEO Jeff Gilbert, a 1985 mechanical engineering graduate. The company, consistently rated among the Best Places to Work in Indiana, is 100 percent employee-owned with nearly half of its workforce made up of Rose-Hulman graduates.

"It was a wonderful experience," Defoe recalls of his sabbatical. "It was very eye opening. I would love to do it again."