Seven students make up ECU’s first class of undergraduate software engineering grads

Seven students will make history during East Carolina University’s commencement on Friday.

As if walking across the stage isn’t historical enough, these seven students are part of ECU’s first class to receive Bachelor of Science degrees in software engineering.

“I honestly didn’t know we were the first class,” said Maria Alexandra Ortiz, a graduate from Pikeville.

Students in ECU’s first graduating software engineering class work on their capstone project in the Bate Building.

Along with Ortiz, the other students in the first class are Alexander Baldauff, Ryon Gerringer, Jonathan Jones, James Kinlaw, Brandon Miranda and Isaiah Wells.

The Department of Computer Science started the process of creating its bachelor’s program in software engineering in 2015. It received UNC System approval in 2018 and enrolled its first students in 2019. The program was converted from the department’s Bachelor of Arts in computer science program, which started in the 1960s.

The program had its first graduate in the spring of 2022. Jack Hanley started at ECU as a computer science major but switched to software engineering after the degree was established. The seven students graduating Friday represent the first group of students who enrolled at ECU specifically as software engineering majors.

Dr. Venkat Gudivada, chair of the Department of Computer Science, expressed his congratulations to the graduates on behalf of the department’s staff and faculty.

“It is a rigorous and challenging program, and the graduates made it through,” he said.

Gudivada said the software engineering program is just one more way the department puts students and their success first, while also supporting the region’s economy by sending the best and brightest into the workforce.

“The B.S. in software engineering program is strategically vital for ECU and the eastern North Carolina region,” he said. “It complements the B.S. in computer science program and is attractive to more practically oriented students. The program focuses on developing scalable and secure software systems using rigorous engineering principles and practices.”

Software engineers are in high demand, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median annual pay for software engineers in 2021 — the last year statistics were available — was roughly $109,000, with job growth in the industry anticipated at 25% through 2031, which is much faster than the average occupation.

Software engineering is more applied — focusing more on software development and testing — than computer science. That’s what drew Ortiz into the program. She said she wants to help solve problems and hopes to find a job that will allow her to work remotely as she pursues her master’s degree.

Either way, she and her fellow software engineering graduates are excited to be members of the first class.

“It feels awesome because we’re making history,” Ortiz said. “And making history is not bad.”