Programmed for Success

Changing Computer Science Major Prepares Students for Workplace
By Vicki Mayk MFA ’13
Wilkes students taking the computer science course CS 125/120 Fundamentals of Programming in fall 2023 received an international experience without leaving campus. During their final class project, they were mentored by advanced students at the Dr. Bhanuben Mahendra Nanavati College of Home Science, a women’s college in Mumbai, India.
The programming class is a required course for both computer science majors and for students majoring in digital design and media arts (DDMA). The international assignment and a focus on women in the computer science field reflect changes in curriculum and the introduction of two new majors in the Math, Physics and Computer Science Department.

The students in Fundamentals of Programming worked in cross-disciplinary teams to develop final projects using the Python programming language. Teams were required to create a graphical user interface with elements such as buttons, icons and other visuals to help users navigate through the on-screen experience. Twelve Indian students worked with 12 teams of Wilkes students to complete projects that included a computerized recipe book, a trivia game and a seat reservation system, among others.

Working with the Indian students had multiple benefits, said Nate Martes, a first-year computer science major. His team was paired with a student named Gauri.

“Working with Gauri has shown me that certain parts of a project may be difficult, but working as a team can make them easy,” Martes said. Also, since Gauri is across the world, time management and communication on both ends of the project were extremely important.

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Melanie Lear Genetti ’99

Soaring as a Software Developer
When an airplane flies somewhere in the United States, Melanie Lear Genetti ’99 has had a hand in maintaining the air traffic control software guiding its route. Genetti is a lead software developer for Leidos, a global company that provides IT solutions for many industries. She developed the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) program, one of three systems routing planes in different parts of the air space.

Genetti does it all from the RV she and her husband live in full time. “We’re digital nomads,” she explained, adding that internet access allows her to work anywhere. The couple sold the Pennsylvania homes they owned in Mountain Top and Drums in 2020. For the last four years, they’ve spent the winter in Florida.

Working with the air traffic software has brought Genetti full circle. As a high school student, she had set her sights on a career in aerospace engineering. After taking classes in the field, she found that she disliked drafting required for the field and switched to computer science, finishing her degree at Wilkes. While completing her bachelor’s degree, a summer internship at NASA’s Goddard’s Space Flight Center in Maryland allowed her to apply her computer science skills in an aerospace setting.

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Lear’s career began at Lockheed Martin in its Engineering Leadership Development Program. From there she joined a government contractor in Washington, D.C., working on fast attack submarines for the U.S. Navy. Other positions have included work as a software engineer for the northeast Pennsylvania firm Lightspeed Technologies and for General Dynamics. She also earned Microsoft Certifications.

Genetti taught the introductory computer science course as an adjunct instructor at Wilkes for three semesters. Juggling teaching with full-time employment in the field was challenging. “The experience gave me a lot of respect for the professors I had at Wilkes,” she said, noting the considerable time required outside the classroom to prepare lectures and grade assignments.

Wilkes is part of a family tradition for Genetti: her late father, David Lear ’61, mother Florence ’72, and sister Erin Lear Bush ’99 PharmD ’14 all earned degrees from Wilkes.

“The most interesting part about this experience I’d say would be seeing how passionate Gauri was to work on this project during our meetings, even though it was 11 p.m. on her end,” Martes said. “This eye-opening experience has shown me that passion is a flame that is not easy to put out and I hope to have the same in the future.”

McKenna Dolan, a DDMA student in the class, said the benefits of working internationally outweighed any challenges.

“We had a wonderful opportunity to work with Shravani. She was a great addition to our team and created a supportive environment for us to learn code,” Dolan said. “We had some difficulty with communication being that the time zone difference was roughly nine hours. We met at night, which was her morning, and when it was nighttime for us, she was just starting her morning. We immersed ourselves in a different culture with a student who shared the same class. I hope she had a good experience as much as we did.”

“We’ve given them a reading that says, ‘Listen to these people that are different than you because they might have ideas that you didn’t think of.’ ”

– Tony Kapolka, associate professor of computer science

Exploring Gender Issues

Tony Kapolka, associate professor of computer science, team-taught the class with Gazelle Taherzadeh, visiting assistant professor. He says the addition of female mentors for the student projects reflects a significant change in course content. After recent updates to the Wilkes computer science curriculum, the Fundamentals of Programming course now also qualifies as a women’s and gender studies course.

Examining gender issues makes sense, Kapolka said, because computer science has long been a male-dominated field that discouraged women’s participation. “I felt strongly that we need to put students in the position of addressing those issues in the first course they take in the major…and show them the inequity,” Kapolka stated. One of the required texts for the class, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed by Men, examines such systemic bias. Working with a team of female mentors offered additional opportunities to recognize expertise is not limited to a single gender.

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Scott Kinane ’99

Developing Solutions in the Changing IT Landscape
Scott Kinane ’99 jokes that he didn’t own a computer when he first came to Wilkes from North Pocono High School in Moscow, Pennsylvania. It’s a surprising admission for someone with a highly successful career in the technology industry. Kinane is vice president, worldwide automation for Kyndryl, an international IT services company generating more than three million IT insights each month for its customers.

In his position, Kinane oversees a team of developers and engineers who design and build automation solutions to ensure business critical systems stay up and running for Fortune 500 clients in industries that include finance, energy, manufacturing, global shipping and more. “We’ve done some really innovative solutions across the world,” Kinane said. “For example, I have a life insurance client in Japan. We did an automation for them tied to seismic data.” If there is an earthquake, the system automatically launches resiliency protocols that keep their systems going, he explained.

After graduating from Wilkes with a double major in computer science and political science, Kinane went to work for IBM as a software developer. In 22 years with the company, he worked in a variety of roles and locations, including a stint in Rome, Italy. After landing in Raleigh, North Carolina, he transitioned to senior management, earning an executive MBA at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. When IBM spun off its IT services business and established Kyndryl, Kinane transitioned to the new company.

Pondering the rapid evolution of technology since earning his degree, Kinane notes skills he developed at the University — such as the ability to navigate change and critical problem-solving — have helped him to succeed. “Being able to dissect problems, break things down into manageable pieces and then do the teamwork to arrive at a solution — those are the types of skills I took from my Wilkes education and still apply today.” Outside the classroom at Wilkes, he used those skills playing on the Colonels football team.

Kinane is married to Tara Wilson Kinane ’98, a graduate of the Wilkes-MCP Hahnemann program, who works in medical research running clinical trials. They have two children, Liam and Chelsea.

Another text required in the course, Framers: Human Advantage in an Age of Technology and Turmoil, explores the value of having people with different backgrounds and mindsets work together to find solutions to problems. “We’ve given them a reading that says, ‘Listen to these people that are different than you because they might have ideas that you didn’t think of,’” he said.


Data scientists, ranked by US News & World Report as the #4 Best Technology Jobs for 2024, use technology to glean insights from the large amounts of data they collect. It’s a field that requires statistics, quantitative reasoning and computer programming skills, and requires good communication skills to report research findings to help answer questions and solve problems. The median salary for a data scientist is $103,500 per year.
Such an approach prepares students for working in the cross-disciplinary teams they are likely to find in the workplace. They learned firsthand the value of different approaches to problem-solving when computer science majors joined digital design students on the project teams.

“This class gave me an opportunity to work in design principles with the coding community, which was great,” Dolan said.

Alumni Involvement Key to Curricular Changes

Changes in the introductory computer science course reflect other changes in the Math, Physics and Computer Science Department, including the launch of two new majors in fall 2023. Now, in addition to computer science, students can choose majors in data science and cloud computing. All three majors take the same five-course core before concentrating on classes particular to each specialization. Practicum courses are offered in each major and students can take up to two of them to help decide which major is best for them. Wilkes Accelerated Research Learning and Outreach Cluster — also known as WARLOC, the University’s supercomputer — is a resource available to students in all three majors.

The explosion of jobs related to the cloud underscored the need for a cloud computing major. “Some students are interested in the field, but they’re more application oriented and they want to do more deployment. They want to manage things more than write code. So that’s a good place for them to land because there are really good jobs and the cloud is everything now,” Kapolka said.

In developing the new major and revising the curriculum, computer science faculty also considered the requirements of accrediting bodies. The rollout of the revised curriculum and new majors began in fall 2023 and will continue over the next two years, as students enroll in the programs.


Cloud computing involves delivering computer services — including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics and intelligence — over the Internet, or “the cloud,” to offer faster innovation and flexible resources. Careers include cloud architect, cloud engineer and cloud consultant. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts that cloud computing employment opportunities will grow by 15 percent in the next 10 years, faster than the average for other occupations. The median salary for jobs in cloud computing is $100,907 per year.
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Feedback from computer science alumni working in the field informed many of the changes and the development of the new majors. Alumni already were involved as mentors for students’ senior projects. “The alumni definitely influenced things like moving database early in the core (courses), because I noticed that almost every alumni project that they pitched to our students was database-oriented,” Kapolka explained.

Chris Issler ’06 is one of the alumni who has been involved in mentoring students. Issler is a senior analyst for Mondelez International, a global company focusing on the snack food industry. The company includes familiar brands like Chips Ahoy, Oreo, Ritz Crackers and more. Issler, who has worked there for 15 years, built the software process used to check products when they arrive at large distribution centers across the country. He oversees Mondelez’s waste initiative, finding ways to get damaged products to discount retail outlets or to feed livestock so it is not wasted.

Simon Chu ’20

Researching Future Technology Solutions
One of the things that Simon Chu ’20 liked best as a Wilkes computer science major was being able to stop by a faculty member’s office to chat. It was just such a conversation that led him to where he is now — a doctoral student in Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, considered one of the top graduate programs in the United States.

“Dr. Fred Sullivan (associate professor of computer science) suggested I apply for the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) funded by the National Science Foundation,” said Chu, a native of Liaoyuan, China. At Sullivan’s urging, Chu applied and was accepted to the internship as a Wilkes junior, introducing him to the highly competitive computer science program at Carnegie Mellon. Now he is a fourth-year PhD student in its software and societal systems department.

Chu’s research is in a subfield of software engineering called the formal methods. “As software grows more and more complex, we have to have an intellectual grasp of the system,” he explained.

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His specific focus is runtime adaptations, which develop ways to get computer systems to respond to unexpected scenarios that can occur in real-world environments. For example, if a system was designed to recognize stop signs, under certain weather conditions, such as fog, it might be unable to perform that function. Chu designs ways to adapt systems to navigate unexpected conditions. He has been the lead author on two papers examining such adaptations that were presented at Software Engineering for Adaptive and Self-Managing Systems (SEAMS) Conference. His dissertation will further explore the topic.

He credits his Wilkes education with developing his interest in research. He got his start with professors Sofya Chepushtanova and Tony Kapolka on a research project using artificial intelligence for image recognition. He said his campus activities, such as being a resident assistant (RA), made him the person he is today. Chu recalled, “Being an RA was a significant part of my college experience, taught me how to communicate and collaborate with other people and helped me make life-long friends.”

Read more about how a recommendation from his uncle, Gene Chu ’89, changed Simon Chu’s life forever, and how Gene Chu is continuing to pay it forward with a $1 million scholarship for Chinese students here.
One of Issler’s hobbies is consulting with a professional fireworks company, Bixler Fireworks in Ashland, Pennsylvania. In fall 2021, Issler supervised a Wilkes senior project team that designed an inventory tool to help to track fireworks products by storage location. The assignment is more difficult than it appears, he explained. Because of federal requirements for storing explosives, companies must navigate multiple storage facilities required to keep inventory separated. The Wilkes student team developed a program to track where each component in a fireworks show could be found.

Issler said he wanted to mentor a senior project group because he remembered his own experience completing the requirement. “I know when I did my senior project, it was very stressful with very long nights. But it was worth it,” he recalled. “When the project was done, being able to deliver the final product was a life lesson.”