Michael Soltys, Program Chair and Professor of Computer Science

by Zoe Lance

While we know Amazon as the world’s online marketplace, millions of international companies know it for its cloud computing services. They use Amazon Web Services (AWS) to store and access data over the internet, allowing us to easily stream our favorite shows, store files and shop online. As more and more companies turn to AWS for technology needs, computer science students will need to quickly learn how to use the platform so they can market themselves post-graduation.

Michael Soltys with studentsMichael Soltys, Professor and Chair of Computer Science at CSUCI, has been ahead of the curve. In the last two years, he has laid the foundation for CSUCI courses and a strong partnership with the company.

In addition to being an AWS cloud architect and official ambassador, he has led the Computer Science program to being an approved member of the AWS Academy and part of the AWS Educate Initiative. Soltys sees this initiative as an extension of CSUCI’s role in the Ventura County region.

“I always want our students to get the best jobs, and I think some of the best jobs are in ‘the cloud’ right now,” Soltys said. “In our partnership, they really like how we have designed our curriculum and how we are quick, innovative and nimble. Our ability to meet them at their pace was what created the successful synergy between CSUCI and AWS.”

Soltys became interested in cloud computing as a research interest, and studied on his own for the cloud architect certification. In looking deeper at the impact of AWS in the business world, he discovered that employers wanted all types of new hires — not just computer scientists — to be familiar with the technology. This spurred him to develop coursework and volunteer as an official ambassador for teaching other faculty.

"I always want our students to get the best jobs, and I think some of the best jobs are in ‘the cloud’ right now."

“I studied very hard for several months, and that showed me that this is really something that can and should be taught at the University and made available to students. It’s hard, but important and extremely useful,” Soltys said.

In April 2020, he worked with AWS to record a lecture on online teaching — distributed by AWS as a webinar with question-and-answer sessions — helping faculty to meet the challenge of COVID-19.

“They provide the cloud infrastructure where a lot of online teaching happens, and now they have cloud ambassadors like myself helping others in teaching online,” Soltys said.

His students are up for the challenge of learning about the platform. His winter class in AWS cloud foundations was full with a waitlist, and this summer’s class in AWS web development is filling fast.

“The students realize that this is a really important component of their future careers, to be well versed in this technology and this new paradigm of doing things,” Soltys said.

Since becoming program chair in 2014, Soltys has been instrumental in creating many new opportunities for students across the University and at the forefront of his discipline. This year, he was appointed to Governor Gavin Newsom’s cyber security task force, joining a group across the state in developing cybersecurity curriculum for kindergarten to graduate students.

“Cybersecurity is becoming such an important issue for both the private and the public sectors, and CSUCI gets to contribute to that,” Soltys said.

In fall 2018, the program admitted its first students into Mechatronics Engineering — a move that Soltys said was the result of responding to local needs for trained engineers. That same year, Soltys started the Computer Science Advisory Board with 20 local companies.

“We have a very current curriculum, partly thanks to the feedback we get from our advisory board,” Soltys said. “Through the board, the students benefit from the possibilities of doing internships and applying for jobs within those companies. Those companies benefit by having relationships with our students who are potential employees at a time with the biggest challenge for Ventura companies is to find a qualified workforce.”

Having his students engaged in his research on cybersecurity and algorithms is also very important to him. Since joining CSUCI, Soltys has included his students in Department of Defense and Department of Justice projects, as well as international conferences.

“My theme as an academic is to work with industry,” Soltys said. “I really like working with industry, and bringing the research and development projects into academia. Our students understand the deep foundations of the field, but do a lot of practical, hands-on work. The combination of those two things is very powerful.”

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© Spring 2020 / Volume 25 / Number 1 / Biannual
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