U.S. News & World Report ranked UC Irvine in the top 10 among the nation’s public universities for both undergraduate game design and software engineering. Offered through the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS), the Game Design and Interactive Media (GDIM) and Software Engineering majors prepare students for a wide range of career options.
“We’re extremely proud that these excellent programs are getting recognized,” says Melissa Mazmanian, ICS professor and chair of the Department of Informatics, which houses both majors. “The undergraduates that our programs are producing are going into the world to make great change.”
Game Design and Interactive Media
Although GDIM is technically a newer offering, it actually has a long history at UCI. Originally launched in 2011 as Computer Game Science, the major was redesigned in 2020 to reflect changes in the field. Game designers are now in demand at an array of companies and organizations hoping to build more interactive and immersive experiences.
“Our GDIM major is really quite expansive in highlighting both the practical elements of game design as well as the role of game design for building a better society,” says Mazmanian. “It’s this emerging space that is not just about entertainment; it can also be a great source for education, for community building and for experiencing history and alternative narratives.”
In September 2021, GDIM welcomed its first cohort of 86 students, and in October 2021, the Greater Irvine Chamber, as part of its inaugural Distinguished Educators program, presented the Distinguished Educator Award for Technology to the GDIM program. As of fall 2022, more than 200 students are enrolled in the major, which covers topics ranging from computer programming and simulation development to games and society. It concludes with a two-quarter capstone course, providing practical, hands-on experience.
“Games are a relatively new art, one that’s worthy of thoughtful study and mastery. We’re honored to be listed as a top 10 program in the national rankings,” says Constance Steinkuehler, chair of the GDIM program, “and very proud of our outstanding and diverse student body, top research faculty and industry instructors, and supportive leadership. Our job now is to build on that reputation toward an even more brilliant future together.”
The history of excellence in software engineering at UCI goes back several decades — long before the major was formally established in 2012. From the early contributions and leadership of Peter Freeman and Thomas Standish in the early 1980s, to the creation of the field of software safety by Nancy Leveson and the development of the field of software architecture by Richard Taylor in the ’80s, to the creation of the HTTP/1.1 protocol and REST architectural style that enables the modern web in the ’90s, software engineering has long been a core strength and area of focus for UCI.
“Software engineering is the backbone of a digital society, so learning to code in ways that are effective, efficient, reliable, stable and secure is fundamental for the world at large,” says Mazmanian. “Sometimes we forget how important those skills are.”
Currently, 240 students are enrolled in the major, learning the fundamentals of programming, software engineering and relevant computer science concepts. Such skills are in high demand, with “software developer” ranking fifth on the 2022 U.S. News and World Report list of 100 best jobs. This program also concludes with a capstone course, with students spending three quarters developing a system for a real-world client.
“I’m so proud of our excellence and standing in the field of software engineering, which goes back many decades,” says James Jones, ICS professor in software engineering. “Given our strong reputation in the field, we attract the best scholars and students, and I look forward to all of our contributions to research and practice for the foreseeable future.”
— Shani Murray