Published: Dec. 21, 2020

Since admitting its first students into the program in January 2018, CU Boulder’s post-baccalaureate program in Applied Computer Science is proving an attractive option for those seeking academic rigor in an online format.

Students in the program learn from and have access to the same outstanding instructors that teach on campus. They interact with other students and post questions in a daily web forum, and they enjoy small class sizes offering intimate class discussions and ready access to help.

The term “post-baccalaureate” refers to a degree or program that allows students who already have an undergraduate degree to prepare for a field different from their first degree. The program’s flexible scheduling and frequent start dates make it an attractive option for working professionals, who show dedication and high achievement as they work toward their career goals.

In fact, three students graduating from the post-baccalaureate program in December 2020 have earned recognition as CU Engineering’s Outstanding Undergraduates for Academic Achievement based on having the highest undergraduate GPAs in the college.

A different kind of education

Headshots of Craven, Lydens and DolanThe post-bacc program is designed for working professionals with classes available online whenever the student is ready. For one of the graduates, Cailyn Craven, this flexibility is what initially attracted her.

“As a mom with a career, finding a program like this felt serendipitous,” she said when asked about her decision to pursue a second degree online.

Craven already holds a bachelor’s degree in history and English with a minor in atmospheric and oceanic sciences from CU Boulder. While working on her second degree, she also owns and operates an e-commerce business. Her goal with the completion of her computer science degree is to improve the software tools that run and automate her business, as well as help fellow business owners do the same. 

Academic Achievement award recipient Anne Lydens also managed to earn her degree amidst work responsibilities as a senior developer for Thoughtbot in Austin, Texas. She also holds a bachelor’s degree from Pomona College in philosophy, politics and economics.       

Fellow Outstanding Graduate Thomas Dolan currently lives in Boulder with his wife, Amanda, and their daughter Madeline.

In 2015 he joined the military, where he worked in satellite and ground radio systems. While deployed in 2018-19, he learned to code as a way of passing the time during 12-hour shifts. What started out as a hobby quickly became a full-blown passion.

Dolan ended up loving coding and decided to pursue a career in software engineering. For him, CU’s Applied Computer Science program represented a bridge to that goal. Now, he is applying to a number of software engineering roles and hopes to find his way back into government work.

“The program was tough, but I believe that I am a much better coder today because of it,” Dolan said.

Professor and program director Dirk Grunwald commends all three students on their achievements and for this program that is proving to catapult students into their careers.

 "These students and their academic success illustrate both why we created the post-baccalaureate program and the effect it can have on students," he said. "The prior degrees of the outstanding undergraduates include history/english, economics, philosophy and politics, but they all see that computing is key to the current and future endeavors, including ecommerce and software development. I'm proud of the students but also of the fact that our program helped in their careers."