April 13, 2012

BiblioLife Scholarship Promotes Liberal Arts-Infused Computer Science at the College of Charleston

Bibliolabs Release

CHARLESTON, S.C., April 12, 2012 /PRNewswire/ – BiblioLabs, a global leader in digital content distribution, is awarding a free education at the College of Charleston – but not to the student with the highest GPA or who writes the best essay. The BiblioLife Scholarship was created to look for "misunderstood geniuses" as the team sometimes jokingly refers to them. They are students who show promise in computing, but don't fit the typical picture of a scholarship recipient.

Joshua Lusk is the 2012 BiblioLife Scholarship recipient. Mr. Lusk is from Clemson, South Carolina and plans to major in Computer Science. By the 9th grade, Josh realized that he could write his own software "rather than accept the software that exists." This annual scholarship, founded in 2008, is a full four-year tuition paid scholarship for incoming freshmen declaring an intent to major in Computer Science, Computing for the Arts, or Discovery Informatics.

"We want to improve the ability to attract software engineering talent in South Carolina," says BiblioLabs founder and chief business officer Mitchell Davis, '93. "And since BiblioLabs was founded by College of Charleston alumni, it was a natural partnership. In my 20 years working in technology start-ups I have been passionate about telling parents and educators about the digital economy and the options it makes available to young people. There are over 3 million high paying, engaging technology jobs available in the United States right now that are unfilled because there is a lack of skilled talent."

Chris Starr, chair of the computer science department, says the scholarship has changed the way he looks at new talent coming to the college. "At our first meeting Mitchell told me one of his best engineers had been a religious studies major. That fit in with my vision of the College of Charleston delivering on the idea of '_computing as a liberal art.' _Right then we realized we had hit on something pretty special."

In addition to a full four-year scholarship, recipients are also offered a paid internship for the entire duration of their college career. In many ways, Davis says this is an even more valuable experience for them, because they learn how to operate and be accountable in a fast moving technology business. BiblioLabs has grown from 6 to 25 employees in the last two years and has grown revenue over 200% a year since launching, so as Davis points out, "Things move very fast and change often to adapt to the market. We are an agile company and these interns have to show some agility in how they think and how they work right out of the gates."

"Many of these students are tentative when they are thrown in with the development team, but after a few weeks, they are delivering code and giving stand-up reports and are a real part of the process. It is really cool to see. They learn quickly that software, like life, is an iterative process and managing that process well is the key to success."

David Brunneau and Glenn Nelson are two of the first recipients of the BiblioLife scholarship. Both are primarily self-taught and did not own personal computers until they were sixteen and seventeen, which they bought with money earned from working odd jobs.

Davis will be the first to admit that Nelson did not receive his scholarship based on his GPA or extra curricular activities, but rather through the interview process with the senior management team. "During the interview, we asked him if he had felt challenged in high school and he took the opportunity to bemoan the lack of enthusiasm in his high school computer science courses and the path he had taken to self-educate. In the process of venting he revealed he knew a lot about engineering. After that interview, we knew we wanted him."

Starr found the perfect vehicle for promoting the scholarship opportunity. He put Davis in front of 70 high school computer science teachers at the Google-sponsored_Computer Science for High School Teachers_ conference. Hosted at the College for each of the last two summers, the teachers were enthused to hear Davis' plain talk about the future of computing and what innovative employers were looking for in new talent.

BiblioLabs was founded after the leadership team successfully developed BookSurge, a print-on-demand company that was sold to Amazon.com in 2005. Founded in 2007, the company has published millions of historical books and won a Publishing Innovation Award for their British Library 19th Century Historical Collection iPad App at the recent Digital Book World conference.

"We are working with leading cultural institutions around the world to create next generation digital products for tablets and browsers. For a company like us on the edge of technology and the humanities, the College of Charleston was the perfect partner to find, mentor and develop talent," says Davis.

The College of Charleston offers undergraduate degrees in computer science (the B.S. degree in computer science is ABET accredited), data science (predictive analytics), computer information systems (business computing) and the new, computing in the arts (creative computing). For more information, contact Dr. Christopher Starr at starrc@cofc.edu.