UMFK, John Bapst agreement increases opportunities to learn computer programming

Posted Aug. 29, 2012, at 7:10 p.m.

FORT KENT, Maine — It’s a brave new world out there for computer hackers and those engaged in identity theft.

A new cooperative agreement between the University of Maine at Fort Kent and John Bapst Memorial High School is preparing the next generation of cybersecurity experts as part of the university’s early college program.

The two institutions have signed an articulation agreement allowing John Bapst students to earn college credits online from UMFK in information security and computer applications from the comfort of the Bangor-based high school.

Currently, UMFK is the only campus in the University of Maine system offering the information security — or “cyberdefense” — courses online, according to Scott Voisine, UMFK dean of community education. The online availability makes the classes accessible to the John Bapst high school students.

“The great thing about what UMFK has done is they have created a niche in this area of computer programing,” Mel MacKay, John Bapst head of school, said. “We certainly have some bright, advanced students who might just find themselves doing further studies in the areas of computer security and Internet security.”

The agreement, MacKay said, is “institution-to-institution,” and participating John Bapst students will have the option of transferring into UMFK’s associate of science in information security or bachelor of science in computer applications degree programs.

UMFK will not assess tuition or fee charges to the high school students for university credits under the articulation agreement, according to Voisine.

“This agreement presents new opportunities for John Bapst Memorial High School students whose academic credits for specific computer science coursework will now seamlessly transfer into UMFK,” said Dr. Raymond T. Albert, professor of computer science at UMFK. “These students are now able to earn free university academic credit while still in high school.”

Currently there are 18 John Bapst students enrolled in the school’s advanced placement computer programming and introduction to computer programming courses, according to MacKay and are eligible for credits at UMFK.

“We’re very pleased to have struck an agreement with UMFK in one of the university’s key specialties — computer science,” MacKay said. “Our top students have been winning Maine’s Cyber Defense Competition since it came into existence [and] now they can readily see how their computer knowledge can translate into further learning and, someday, a career.”

The competition is organized by several campuses in the University of Maine System.

It was Albert’s involvement with the annual cyberdefense competitions which sparked the concept of an ongoing relationship with John Bapst, Voisine said.

Once they are matriculated in the UMFK computer degree programs, the students are eligible for four college credits and all earned credits can be applied toward a UMFK degree.

“UMFK has a long history of quality early college program opportunities for high school students,” said Voisine. “UMFK’s new relationship with John Bapst Memorial High School will provide another layer of academic options to their students; especially those interested in the growing field of information security.”

Campuses within the UMaine system are popular post-graduation destinations for John Bapst students, MacKay said, adding UMFK is now providing an additional option.

“This is really an awareness-raising opportunity,” he said. “These students who take these [advanced-placement computer] courses are more aware than most others about this field but there are some who may not realize there are whole [university] departments devoted to computer programs.”

The relationship has already extended beyond the computer program, MacKay said.

“One of UMFK’s other strengths, given its location in the St. John Valley, is French,” he said. “We have two seniors who exhausted the AP French curriculum at John Bapst last year as juniors, and both are enrolled this year in online advanced French through Fort Kent.”

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