Kay Hazen: The Force Behind the Masters in Software Development

Kay Hazen MSDMeet Kay Hazen, the dynamic Program Manager for MIU’s Masters of Software Development (MSD)program.  Kay has a strong business and educational background, including working in Career Strategies for the MS in Computer Science (ComPro) for several years before joining MSD. Currently, Kay wears two hats, as both MSD Program Manager and Director of the MSD Career Strategies Workshop. With her solid experience and diverse skills, we are fortunate to have Kay onboard.  Let’s learn about Kay and all she does to ensure the success of the MSD program and its graduates.

Interview by Christine Albers (CA)

CA: What are your responsibilities as Program Manager for MSD?

Kay: I make sure the program runs fluidly; from advertising to reviewing student applications, to making sure the students are comfortable when they arrive on campus. In addition, I run the Career Strategies Workshop. It’s the last course each student takes, so I’m involved every step of the way during their journey, from start to finish.

CA: The Career Strategies Workshop is a vital part of MSD, as every student’s entire goal is to get a great job when they graduate. What do you cover during this time?

Kay: During this 2-week workshop they learn how to find the position they want to apply for, write a professional resume, ask and answer questions during interviews, and write a follow-up thank-you note. These soft skills give them confidence in promoting themselves and handling interviews, so when they complete the workshop, they literally can’t wait to jump into the job search.

CA:  How do the students know where to apply? It’s a big world out there!

Kay: There might be 1,000’s of positions to choose from, but we help them decide where to apply. For example, do they want a corporate culture where they wear suits and ties and work with top-tier global consulting firms? Or do they prefer an informal setting where they can wear t-shirts and jeans? What are the technologies they will be working on? Where is the job located?  Do they want to live there? Is the company only offering a salary, or are benefits included? These are the things to consider before starting their job search.

CA: Do you teach them how to promote themselves on social media as well?

Kay: Definitely! They learn how to promote themselves online on sites such as LinkedIn, Dice, Indeed, and Career Builder. In addition, the MSD website has a landing page where recruiters can review their resumes, and we try to make sure the students only work with professional recruiters. We also encourage them to network with friends and associates who work in companies where they want to apply.

CA: How long does it take for MSD graduates to land a job?

Kay: In a good market the job search can take 3 to 6 months and at times, up to a year. However, our graduates are getting jobs quickly because they are well-prepared. They know what type of company they want to work in and have developed quality interviewing skills. Another advantage that our students have is that we partner with companies who seek the technical skills that our students have.

CA:  What is your success rate?

Kay: Our graduates are doing great! 100% of our 2020 and 2021 graduates have accepted positions at top US companies including Google, Citibank, USAA, Hays Companies, Boeing, and others, with an average annual pay of $95,000 (ranging from $75,000 to $135,000), while many of our 2022 graduates have already accepted great positions as well.

CA: What makes you confident that MSD graduates have the technical skills needed for the job market?

Kay: MSD is different from a typical computer science program where they learn many technologies but the courses are shallower. Our classes are specific. The MSD students learn JavaScript web development. It’s the front end and back end for web and IOS, so it’s more hands-on than other programs. Plus, with MIU’s block system, they take one course at a time so it’s easier to focus and retain the knowledge.

CA: I understand the courses are project-based. Can you describe how that works?

Kay: The students work on 9 to11 projects during the year, and each one is similar to projects they would have in an actual workplace. Approaching the problem as a real-life project develops and establishes their skills and helps make them proficient JavaScript web developers.

CA: What are companies looking for in new hires, and software developers in particular?

Kay: First of all, the applicant needs to have strong technical skills, but soft skills are also in high demand. Many times, companies choose someone who is confident and comfortable in their own skin. The employer knows they will be sitting with this person for two-thousand hours a year and they want to hire someone who is easy to be around, driven to succeed, and wants to continue to learn all that they can because learning new technologies never ends in the field of software development.

CA:  Is this why perfecting the interview process is important?

Kay: Very much so. During the interview process, our graduates have an opportunity to demonstrate their technical skills, but they can also demonstrate that they are team players who show up on time, are excited about the company and its projects, are dedicated and professional, and will bring those high standards to the workplace.

CA: What inspires you about working with MSD students?

Kay: I enjoy meeting people from all areas of the USA, and different countries and cultures, who have various perspectives on life. It is a joy to watch these students start a master’s program with little, if any, experience in developing software, and achieve a master’s degree and a life-changing new career.

They embark on this new path, leaving their jobs and families for 12 to 18 months to attend the Masters in Software Development program.   In the end, when they complete the program and find a great job, they are so happy they made that decision! They inspire me because they leave everything they know to come to this little town of Fairfield seeking higher education at MIU and take a chance on a new career path because they want a more fulfilling life, and they do it! It really is an honor to be a part of their journey.

Kay and Students at Picnic

*This article has been updated as of June 16th, 2022 to reflect current statistics.



Deborah Igaba – On Her Way to Becoming a Successful Software Developer

Deborah Igaba MSD student headshotOriginally from Kampala, Uganda, Deborah Igaba traveled to the United States with her mother and younger sister in 2020, joining her older sister and brother who were living in Centreville, Virginia.  In this interview Deborah discusses life on the MIU campus, her experience with Transcendental Meditation and how it helps organize her mind for coding, and why she recommends the Master’s in Software Development program (MSD) for prospective JavaScript web developers.  Let’s meet Deborah!

Interview by Christine Albers (CA)

CA:  It’s wonderful that your entire family is living together in the USA, Deborah. Was it a culture shock when you arrived in Centreville, Virginia?

Deborah: It wasn’t too hard for us because we arrived during Covid and everything was quiet during that time. My older sister and brother were already living in Centreville, so our whole family was living together after some years, and we were very happy to be reunited.

CA: It’s wonderful that your mother moved to the United States with you. How did she adjust to living in the USA and Virginia? And how is everyone else in your family doing in the USA?

Deborah: It was hard for my mom. Imagine living your whole life in another place and then when you are older, moving to a completely different country. It was more difficult for her and I commend her for making such a big decision later in life. She’s doing great now and working as a nurse. My younger sister, who came with us, is in pharmacy school. My older sister is a pharmacist and my brother is a software engineer.

CA: What is your educational background?

Deborah: My undergraduate degree was in Civil Engineering which I studied back in Uganda. As part of my undergraduate curriculum, I had a chance to study the C++ programming language and that sparked my interest in the programming world. It was the very first time I encountered programming, but I knew wanted to pursue this career path in the future. As the years went by, my interest in computer programming grew.

CA: How did you learn about MIU?

 Deborah: I heard about MIU and the Masters in Software Development program (MSD) from my brother who graduated from the MS in Computer Science program (ComPro). He really enjoyed his time at MIU and recommended it highly. Now he has a great job working remotely for Cognizant. We are glad that he can live and work from home in Centreville, and our family can be together.

CA: What made you choose MIU instead of another university that teaches software development?

Deborah: I always wanted to be part of something that enabled me to maximize the full potential inside of me. When I read about the program and the teaching style at Maharishi University that involved Transcendental Meditation and the block system, I knew this was surely the place for me. Once the opportunity arose to apply for the MSD program, I decided to go for it!

CA: With your mother and sisters all in the medical field, were you tempted to go into pharmaceuticals?

Deborah: I’m not interested in working in the medical field, but I like to help people. Even during my programming career, I wanted to find a way to make a difference in this world. Right now, it’s too early to tell what I can do, but at the beginning of the course, I was interested in engineering, perhaps something like traffic simulation. There are programs that cause the traffic lights to time in synchrony, and all that is calculated, which fascinates me.

CA: Would you like to work remotely when you graduate?

Deborah: It’s different for people who come to the USA from another country. There is no state that we call home, so we can work in any state. But since my older sister lived in Centreville for 10 years and she knows it, and the rest of my family is living there, if I do have a choice, that is where I would like to live. But basically, I’m open to going anywhere.

CA: You started the program in August 2021. How far along are you now?

Deborah:  We have finished the foundational courses, which were a bit tough as there was a lot to cover in a short time. We are on our third course now, web application programming. I love it because it gives me a real feeling for what we will be doing as JavaScript web developers and how we will apply this knowledge. We are seeing the user experience – exactly what the user sees on the other end.

CA: Are you on the Accelerated or Standard Track?

Deborah: I’m on the 12-month Accelerated track, partly because I had C++ experience and because I did well enough on the entrance exam that they told me I could join the Accelerated Track.*

CA: How are your studies going?

Deborah: It’s challenging, and I have to put a lot of time into it, but it’s not impossible. I have learned to trust the process and bit by bit I am gaining the knowledge. For some people, like me, it takes a little longer to digest the information, but once I get it, I retain it.

CA: What are you enjoying most about the university?

Deborah: I’m actually enjoying the meals and a healthy lifestyle. I feel cleansed because I am eating healthy foods. I love the salad and even the dessert is healthy so I’m enjoying that as well. In our first STC course (Science and Technology of Consciousness), we learned how to have healthier habits like exercising, staying rested, eating healthily, and meditating regularly to stay clear and focused. I’ve been applying these lifestyle habits and it’s making a difference. I also love the block system.

CA: What do you love about the Block System?

Deborah: It’s wonderful. My sister is in pharmacy school,  and she is taking five course units at a time. In my program at MIU, I take one subject at a time and I can digest information much more quickly and easily because each subject builds on the last. I think every school should look into the block system.  It’s the best thing that could ever happen to any student because it makes learning so much easier.

CA: How are your professors?

Deborah: The professors are really good. I like how free they are with the students. You don’t feel limited any time you have to ask a question and they are very available for us as well. If you ask something they will get back to you almost immediately on Microsoft Teams and I really appreciate that.

CA: How’s your TM practice? Do you notice any benefits?

Deborah: I notice I’m much more organized. There’s a lot to remember with JavaScript, and with TM, my mind is organized so I can place everything where it needs to be. I don’t know how I could write 200 lines of code without that kind of clarity and orderliness in my thinking. For instance, if you open a tag and you forget to close it, this is not a good coding practice and it will be confusing. The code has to be in a particular position or scope in order to run perfectly. Without TM and a more focused mind, you are more likely to keep making errors. Also, I don’t feel as stressed as I would be without the daily meditation. Even though the program is a lot of work, for some reason I don’t feel stressed – and I think the reason is TM.

CA: You were saying that you joined a church in Fairfield and they made you feel welcome. How does your TM practice fit in with your religion?

Deborah: At the beginning, I was concerned and wondered if there might be a conflict, but our STC Professor, Dr. Wolfe said she likes to pray after her meditation. I find that TM is complimentary to someone’s religion. It quiets you and puts you in a place of solitude. After meditation is a beautiful time for me to pray because it feels like it’s just me and God.

CA: How’s dorm life?

Deborah: It’s great. My classmates live nearby and I love that there is a gym in the basement. I was worried about the cold in the winter and now I can get my exercise in my own building. It’s very convenient so I literally have no excuse. There are 2 treadmills, an elliptical machine, trampolines, a weight bench, and weights. I do my cardio on the treadmill or the trampoline and I also do weights. I like to exercise in the evening at 5:00 pm, right before dinner and homework.

Deborah and friends on campus

CA: How is the environment at MIU?

Deborah: I notice in Fairfield and at MIU, people are really warm. In a fast-paced city, you don’t get that. People don’t care. Here, it’s slower, which I like and it gives you a cushion, especially for people who are coming from a foreign country. I came to MIU from Virginia, and I’ve met people who are coming from Africa, and many other countries.  MIU is a good start for being in America. If you go straight to a big city from a foreign country, it could be a culture shock, but coming to MIU softens that.

CA: What inspires you about MIU and MSD?

Deborah: The combination of everything here at MIU – the block system, Transcendental Meditation, and the STC course where you learn daily habits and routines that work for you. You find out who you are, your body type according to Maharishi Ayur Veda, and learn exactly what foods and types of exercise, and daily routine you need to stay balanced. If someone goes by that, does their exercise, eats right, and gets good rest, the sky’s the limit. Obviously, there are nights when I stay up too late and I realize I didn’t accomplish anything after 10:00 pm, so I go to bed earlier the next night. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m definitely in a better place than I was when I arrived here.

CA: What would you say to other students applying to MSD? 

Deborah: It’s definitely a good program because it supports people who don’t have any background in computer science. I would tell them they definitely can do it because the professors understand where you are coming from, and they make it possible for you. The information is delivered in a way that you can understand the knowledge and the whole program and environment here is set up to help you succeed. As for me, I am optimistic at every stage of this journey that I can become one of the most successful female software developers.


Deborah is currently enrolled in the Masters of Software Development program and will begin applying for JavaScript web developer positions when her courses finish in August 2022. We wish her the best of luck and promise to keep you posted about her next adventure in the world of IT!

Top MSD Graduate Jeremy Chronister Creates a New Life for Himself and His Family

“The Master’s in Software Development (MSD) is set up to help you succeed. You can come here knowing that the faculty will do all they can to help, and then, with the team projects, your classmates work with you and everyone helps each other. It’s a great environment, very supportive, and set up for learning and moving forward.  It’s an investment year of your life, but in the end, it will be worth it.” ~ Jeremy Chronister

By Christine Albers

It takes a lot of courage and determination to pack up yourself, your wife, 3 young children, 30 beehives, and a kayak, and move from Tennessee to Iowa to pursue a new career. But Jeremy Chronister did it – and he’s glad he did. After working in the paper industry as an engineer for 19 years Jeremy knew it was time for a change. “Paper mills are an old school industry,” he explains. He was in the fine papers industry, which includes printer paper, magazines, etc. and much of it was declining. He had enjoyed creating some computer programs at the job and wanted to gain more expertise in computer technology. But where to go? Most computer science Master’s programs require a BA in computer science and Jeremy’s degree was in Chemical Engineering from the University of Maine. Then he found the Master’s in Software Development program at MIU.

CA: How did you become interested in computer science?

Jeremy: I learned early in my career that life is a lot easier if you can automate things.  I wanted to get into computer programming, but it’s hard to get over that hump of not having a strong computer science background. I taught myself some visual basic and JavaScript but needed training in modern frameworks.

CA: How did you hear about MIU?

Jeremy: I learned about MIU through my mother-in-law who lives in Fairfield, Iowa. She told me there was a new Master’s in Software Development (MSD) which didn’t require any experience or background in computer science. We weren’t sure how it was going to go, because in 2019 it was only in its first year, so we waited and watched the first class and it turned out great. All the graduates got good jobs so I felt encouraged to apply. The MSD program covers all the in-demand technologies and offers a well-rounded education which was a heads up for me.

CA: Was MSD everything you hoped for?

Jeremy: I learned a lot and I liked the block schedule where you work on one subject at a time and everything builds from the class before it. We used what we just learned in our next class and I liked that we didn’t have to keep switching up subjects like at other colleges.

CA: Was it challenging?

Jeremy: It was challenging but my classmates were great and we all helped each other when we ran into problems. Plus, our professors were very helpful and willing to assist whenever we needed it.

CA: How was the international culture?

Jeremy: Catching the accents of everyone was difficult at first but I finally got there. Ironically, I was told I have an accent which I couldn’t believe! Once you get the rhythm, the other languages are easier to understand, especially since many of the international students had been in the USA for a few years.

I really liked meeting people from so many countries, such as Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Pakistan, Nepal, and China. They were polite and fun to work with. We were all in the same boat, trying to improve our lives no matter where we came from. It was a good opportunity and it expanded my understanding of the world to see that the news doesn’t show you everything. They are all people like me.

MSD friends with Jeremy at graduation

CA: How are the faculty?

Jeremy: They are excellent,  always helpful, and trying to assist and challenge us. They got us started on an idea for a project and encouraged us to learn the details and implement it on our own. We learned how to read the API documentation which we will need in the future when we are constantly learning new technologies. It will be important to be self-sufficient and work out problems independently in the working environment.

CA: Now that you have finished MSD, how do you feel about programming?

Jeremy: I really enjoy programming because you can make it into an art. You can create code that moves smoothly or roughly; it’s up to the programmer to make it easy for everyone to understand what you are doing and minimize any redundance.

CA: How did you like working on a team?

Jeremy: If you have a good team, it goes pretty smoothly. As long as the code works and passes the tests there is a lot of room to play,  so each person can do their part, with their own style.  Everyone writes slightly differently, but we keep to the standards and then put it all together to make one full application. It’s great to see it all work in the end.

CA: Do you feel ready for a job as a JavaScript web developer?

Jeremy: I feel comfortable with everything we covered in the curriculum and our professors always gave us the latest popular framework.  Although each company might use different standards, once we learn one framework, we can quickly learn others because they are usually similar ideologies.

CA: What qualities are needed to succeed as a JavaScript programmer?

Jeremy: A good programmer needs to be detail-oriented and also a little creative, able to spin ideas in a different way. If they learn one skill, they should be able to spin it and apply it to something else. I do not think everyone can be a programmer, because everyone is given different gifts and talents. The ability to write programs requires being able to break a problem down into logical steps which will be combined to accomplish your goal.

CA: How did you do all this with a family?

Jeremy: My family was very supportive. We have 3 girls, ages 5, 7, 9, and my wife home schools them. They always made sure I went to school and gave me time to do my TM and study at night. My wife wanted me to do this because of the opportunity to get a good job in the end. They helped me stay rested during the year and I was in bed every night by 10:00 pm, which helped me be alert during classes in the day.

CA: How do you feel about your TM practice? Did it help you in school?

Jeremy: I learned TM when I arrived at MIU and it was questionable at first, but I was willing to try it because of all the  good research on the benefits.

For me, the effects were more subtle. It helped my mind settle down so I had more clarity. I think it helped me learn more and absorb the material because I could focus better without all the racing thoughts.

CA: Will you continue your TM now that you have graduated?

Jeremy:  I plan to continue meditating. I’ve kept it up since graduating and hope to stay in the routine of doing it each day when I get a new job.

CA: How’s the job search going?

Jeremy: I took a few weeks off after my courses ended to spend time with my family, so I’m just getting into the job search process. I’m hoping to get a job where I can see the whole flow, from the back end to the front end, to the distribution of information, to the Cloud. I like seeing how all the pieces work together. In the MSD program, we learned in a development setting, but code production is fundamentally different. With development, you are only testing code, but in production, you might get a million requests so you have to scale things out so you can handle all the incoming requests. We learned how to set that up in our Cloud Computing classes.

CA: What are you looking for in a job?

Jeremy: I would like a remote job. I am location-specific with my hobbies because I’m into whitewater kayaking and the best spots are away from big cities where the tech jobs are. My family and I hope to go back to the tri-state area of West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, where we are from, and where there’s a lot of white-water kayaking.

CA: What would you say to students who are applying for MSD?

Jeremy: MSD is set up to help you succeed. You can come here knowing that the faculty will do all they can to help, and then, with the team projects, your classmates work with you and everyone helps each other. It’s a great environment, very supportive, and set up for learning and moving forward.  It’s an investment year of your life, but in the end, it will be worth it.


Congratulations to Jeremy, who completed his courses and graduated from the Masters of Software Development program in August 2021. He started his new career as a JavaScript web developer at Capital Technology Group in Maryland on November 1, 2021. We wish him the best of luck on his next adventure in the world of IT!





Why Sirak’s Friends are Joining the Master’s in Software Development

Sirak HeadshotSirak Tekle came to America from the country of Eritrea in 2015, with a background in electrical engineering. He learned about the Master’s in Software Development (MSD) program from a friend who graduated from the Computer Professionals (ComPro) program in 2016. Let’s see how Sirak is doing as an MSD student, why he tells his friends to come to MIU instead of going to boot camps – and five of his friends are joining the program!

By Christine Albers

CA: How do your parents feel about you joining the MSD program?

Sirak: They are happy and proud of me for coming here for this education. They think it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

CA: When did you come to the US?

Sirak: I landed in San Jose, California in 2015. It was a bit of a culture shock because it’s so diverse and very different from Eritrea. But now I feel like this country is my home. I was employed by Dish Network, Uber, and AT&T as a technician in San Jose before coming to Iowa.

CA: How did you hear about MIU?

Sirak: My friend Henok, who graduated from the Computer Science (ComPro) program, bugged me for 3 years to take this program. I couldn’t join ComPro because I didn’t have a computer background, but he told me I could take the MSD program without any software development experience. He said, “This Master’s in Software Development is the best deal for people who have a background like us.” It took me three years to decide to come to MIU and when I came, I found it was exactly like he said.

CA: What did Henok love best about MIU?

Sirak:  Henok loved the environment, that it was not a big city, but a quiet town, which is the best environment for students. It’s not a big party school, it’s literally a perfect environment. He also told me that Transcendental Meditation (TM) helped him make good progress in his studies.

Sirak with Friends Graduation Party

CA: Do you agree with Henok?

Sirak: Yes!  I love the campus and the whole Fairfield area. If I find a remote job I’d love to continue to live here.  Fairfield is more like my country, so I feel like I’m back home right now. You don’t have the traffic, it’s not crowded. The city is perfect and amazing, and so quiet. I live downtown next to Jefferson County Courthouse and I particularly like Sundays because they are so quiet.

CA: What do you like best about MIU and the MSD program?

Sirak: I like TM, and the environment, and the curriculum. We study one topic at a time and focus entirely on software development, not bothering to study unnecessary things.  We are learning the skills specific to our career, so by the time we finish the program, we have everything we need to find a job. All we need is a Master’s degree and we can get a job right away.

CA: What benefits do you notice from your TM practice?

Sirak: TM helps me a lot, especially in the morning. It makes my mind more powerful and triggers my energy. I see a lot of differences. I used to get bored easily and after an hour I wanted a break, but once I do my meditation in the morning, I can study for a long time, four or five or even six hours at a time.

CA: Did you consider going to a boot camp?

Sirak: I wouldn’t recommend boot camps. It’s better to come here and join the extended track (18 months). People might save some money at boot camps, but it’s not about the money. It’s about your long-term goals. Students don’t learn enough at the boot camps because it’s impossible to learn that fast. If they know nothing, to begin with, they won’t gain a deep core understanding of the programming language, as we do here at MIU. Here they teach us to think like an engineer, to solve problems on our own, and to understand the core of the study. You cannot become a competent programmer by going to a boot camp.

CA: Do you enjoy software development?

Sirak: When I came here, we were learning new frameworks and new technologies from the top of the market. That’s the best thing about MSD. They only teach you the most up-to-date knowledge and frameworks.

CA: How do you like JavaScript?

Sirak: I love JavaScript. It’s not complicated.  It’s straightforward and grows more popular all the time.  If you go to Google ratings for programming languages it’s at the top rank of any programming language

CA: If someone asked you about the program what would you tell them?

Sirak: I used to think that all schools are the same, but this school not only helps you change your career, it’s also life-changing, and TM is a big part of that. Now I regret that I waited three years. I don’t want my friends and all the people I know to miss this opportunity. I recommended this to five of my friends who are joining next semester and I want to keep convincing my friends to come to MIU and join this program. It will help them get a great career and change their lives for the better.

Sirak completed his courses and graduated from the Masters of Software Development program in August 2021. He is ready to begin a new career as a JavaScript web developer. We wish him the best of luck on his next adventure in the world of IT!




MSD Professor Dr. Renuka

Dr. Renuka Mohanraj Feeling at Home on Master’s of Software Development Faculty

“I would tell students that MIU is a very happy place to live and study, and this program prepares them to get good jobs and create a better life.” ~ Dr. Renuka

By Christine Albers

Dr. Renuka Mohanraj emigrated from Southern India to join Maharishi International University (MIU) faculty in 2014. In March 2021 she won an industry award for research on wireless security and was honored as a Fellow of the Computer Science Research Council (FCSRC) for her important research on wireless sensor networks (WSN) data security. Let’s meet this brilliant and accomplished professor, who we are so fortunate to have on faculty for the Master’s of Software Development program (MSD), and the MS in Computer Science (ComPro). Learn why her students sing her praises with comments like this:

“Data structure was a crucial course and you made it enjoyable and easy. I love the way you teach and how organized and efficient you are. I appreciate the extra effort you put in to make sure all of us understand the concepts very well. You are the best professor I have had in this program. Best wishes and thank you and I deeply appreciate your hard work.”

CA: Congratulations on your award, Dr. Renuka. Can you tell us about your background?

Dr.  Renuka: I have my Ph.D. in Computer Science and a Master’s in Computer Applications.  I had 19 years of academic experience and worked for 12 years in other universities prior to joining the MIU faculty.

CA: What inspired you to join MIU?

Dr.  Renuka: In 2014, my husband was working in Tanzania and I had just completed my Ph.D. in India. We were looking for a place where our whole family could be together so he searched on Google for a university where we could work and live. When we found MIU we were attracted by the concept of Consciousness-based education. We liked the idea that the development of consciousness through meditation was a big part of the university. We thought that because everyone, the students, staff, and faculty all practice the TM technique, it would be a calm, quiet, and safe place for us to live as a family.

CA: What was it like for you, coming from India to a small-town environment in Iowa?  

MSD Professor Dr. Renuka and familyDr.  Renuka: For me, it wasn’t a complete cultural shift because the university follows Maharishi’s tradition. After meeting my colleagues and students, it felt like my home town very quickly, because many people are meditating and on a spiritual path in addition to a career path.

CA: What do you like best about living in the MIU community?

Dr.  Renuka: In this community, everyone is respectful and loving, and helpful to each other.  That is what’s so great about living here.  I remember arriving on campus as newcomers and everyone smiled at us and welcomed us. It made us feel safe to stay here because the people are so wonderful.

CA: Are you feeling any benefits from your TM practice?

Dr.  Renuka: It’s so wonderful. I have seen myself grow in self-confidence, clarity of mind, calmness, and much more energy.

CA: Do you think the MSD students are different from students you taught at previous universities?

Dr.  Renuka: The MSD students are different from other students because they want to learn as much as they can from the faculty. They have keen observation, and focus, and the determination to gain this knowledge. The MSD course is challenging and requires hard work, but TM gives them greater mental clarity and the energy to accomplish more. MIU is unique because the faculty has to keep up with the demand of the students to learn. This is very stimulating and enjoyable as a teacher.

CA: What do you think of the Block system?

Dr.  Renuka: The Block system is effective for helping students learn and retain knowledge because it’s much easier to go deeply into each subject when they take one course at a time. Students have class in the morning and a practicum in the afternoon.  During the practicum, they apply what they learned in the morning session so they get a complete understanding. The practicum provides an opportunity to solve the type of problems they would encounter in the workplace, which prepares them for their future careers in software development.

CA: I understand that computer science has been mostly male-dominated in the past. Do you think that women faculty and students are outnumbered by men at MIU?

Dr.  Renuka: When I came to MIU in 2014 I was the only woman in the Computer Science Department. MIU recruited me because they wanted more women to join the faculty. Now it is getting better. Many more female students enrolled in the MSD program in August, and there are more women in the department.

CA: Why do you feel it is important for the students to learn TM?

Dr.  Renuka: TM helps students have a balanced personality and reduces stress and anxiety. Because they have inner calm, they are more stable and better able to focus on their classes and learn the technologies. Because TM develops the students from the inside, it helps them be good citizens and creates better quality human beings.

CA: What would you like to say to students who are interested in joining the MSD program?

Dr.  Renuka: I would tell students that it’s a very happy place to live and study, and this program prepares them to get good jobs and create a better life. With their TM practice, they can easily face the challenges of the current market in the IT industry. The technologies may change, but with a clear mind and rested physiology, they can learn new technologies and be successful in the workplace.


Why the Master’s in Software Development is Better than Boot Camp

An interview with Dr. Keith Levi, Dean of the College of Computer Science, MIU

 By Christine Albers

“We observed the success that top boot camps had with relatively short, intense programs to train web programmers. Web development was an area of strength in our highly successful Master’s of Science in Computer Science (ComPro) program. So, we decided to create a tightly focused Master’s degree program that would leverage our web development expertise for strong students with limited prior software expertise.”  Dr. Keith Levi

 Meet Dr. Keith Levi, who was instrumental in creating both the Master’s in Computer Science (ComPro) program and the Master’s in Software Development (MSD) program at MIU. Learn how MSD evolved as a better program than boot camps for aspiring software developers who lacked experience in computer science. If you’re thinking of getting into web development, this interview is a must-read!

CA: How did you first learn about MIU? And what is your educational background?

Dr. Levi: The first time I visited MIU I was a new meditator, attending my first residence course, in the spring of 1975. I liked the environment so I came back that same year in November to attend MIU, and graduated in 1979. I went on to graduate school at the University of Michigan, where I studied computer science, statistics, and mathematical psychology. I have degrees in all of those. My Ph.D. is in Mathematical Psychology and my MA and MS are in Statistics and Computer Science.

CA: What inspired you to join the MIU faculty?

Dr. Levi: I was a visiting professor several times and joined the Computer Science Department full-time in 1990. I was inspired by my experience as a student at MIU, and although I had great respect for all my professors in graduate school at Michigan, I had a special admiration for my MIU professors and looked to them as to where I would like to go in my career and who I wanted to become as a person.

CA: You were instrumental in starting the Computer Professionals (ComPro program). What is the history of ComPro?

Keith Levi, Ph.D MSD FacultyDr. Levi: In 1990 I was teaching Computer Science. We had small classes with 20 or so undergrads and a few graduate classes with about 15 students. By 1994 or 1995, the numbers were so low, we wondered how to recruit more students. I knew from my graduate school experience that every Ph.D. program has teaching or research assistantships, which provided employment to pay for graduate school in addition to experiential learning.

At that time, there were a number of tech companies in Fairfield that were doing well, such as Telegroup, USA Global Link, and others. With all these companies needing tech people, we had the idea to bring in students and give them assistantships. ComPro basically started out with students taking classes part-time and working part-time at local tech companies. We actually drove our students to work in vans and picked them up at the end of the day.

CA: That’s quite a history. How did ComPro grow into what it is now?

Dr. Levi: We got to the point where we had more students than available jobs in Fairfield. We wanted to see if we could replicate it, but the part-time model wouldn’t work outside of Fairfield.

CA: How did you resolve all this?

Dr. Levi: In 1999, we developed a new model for ComPro, where the students studied full-time on campus for one year. After a year of study, we helped them find jobs in the field, where they finished their last few courses remotely and part-time. That was a big step. We were fortunate in those early days to get some outside companies such as IBM in Minnesota and Microsoft in Seattle to hire our students.

CA: How did the new model work out?

Dr. Levi: It expanded quickly until the dot.com crash between 1998 and 2000 when we hit a hurdle. The crash was a big challenge for tech companies and that affected our program.

CA: I remember working in technical recruiting and there was no business at all. How did you pull through the dot.com crash?

Dr. Levi: We got through it with a lot of work, worries, and collaboration with our students. Quite a few students came back to campus and we gave them positions in our IT department to keep them in a holding pattern until the economy recovered. We were worried because we had so many students in the field who were linked to the university.  It took a lot of flexibility and hard work to keep the program going, but all of our students finished their education and graduated.

CA: How does ComPro stand today?

Dr. Levi: ComPro is one of the largest Masters in Computer Science programs in the country. We’re the second largest after the University of Southern California, producing Masters of Science in Computer Science degrees, and our graduates are in many Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Bank of America, Honeywell, Citibank, Amazon, IBM, and more.

CA: Congratulations on the success of ComPro. Let’s turn our attention to the Master’s in Software Development (MSD). I understand that MSD evolved out of ComPro. How did that happen exactly?

Dr. Levi: For a number of years, we were discussing how to manage the risks associated with ComPro, due to the ups and downswings in the economy, and international students who were dependent on visas. We had huge numbers coming from China, Ethiopia, Nepal, and Viet Nam, but when the Trump administration opposed immigration and tried to cut off many countries, our enrollment was affected negatively.

CA: How does that relate to MSD?

Dr. Levi: By January 2017, we had a very strong program in web programming for ComPro, and we could see that web software had become the core of the software development field.

Meanwhile, boot camps were springing up. A top program advertised to people who were relatively new programmers and promised to get them jobs earning $100,000 a year. They guaranteed these jobs or the boot camp grads wouldn’t have to pay their tuition. However, if you read the fine print, the job had to be in San Francisco or New York City, because salaries are highest in those cities. That program only took one out of 20 applicants, plus they had a 3-month prep course, and their students were expected to spend 100 hours a week in class and study.

CA: How did that influence the creation of the MSD program?

Dr. Levi: What interested us about boot camps was that they were teaching full-stack JavaScript. We had a strong curriculum in full-stack, so we knew we could create something like boot camps, but better. We developed a 12-month program that did not require 100 hours of work per week, and we marketed it to Americans, Permanent Residents, and Asylees, which eliminated visa problems. MSD was a different market than ComPro but utilized our existing courses and faculty.

CA: Can you say more about why the Master’s of Software Development is better than boot camps?

Dr. Levi: Some of the boot camps are great, but the people who do well are already experienced programmers though they may not know JavaScript.  They are mainly attending to learn that language. People without any computer background will find it difficult to be successful with only a few months of training. Many boot camps have been extending the length of their programs because it has been their experience that most people require more time.

CA: Does MSD require prior experience in Computer Science? What are the requirements to apply for this program?

Dr. Levi: Students can apply, even if they have no background in computer science, as long as they can demonstrate an ability to learn software development. We require a Bachelor’s degree in any field with a 3.0 GPA or above.

CA: How do the applicants demonstrate their ability to learn software development?

Dr. Levi: Computer Science has a particular way of thinking, learning, and problem-solving, and we test our students to see if they are able to succeed in this field. We launched our twelve-month program in September 2019. We also added an additional preparatory semester in fall 2020 for individuals that might need more time to refresh their mathematical and logical skills. Now we have a 12-month Accelerated program and an 18-month Standard program.

CA: How does our faculty compare to boot camp faculty?

Dr. Levi: Our faculty is generally stronger than the faculty at boot camps. They may have some top people, but most of their instructors are not university professors and do not have experience as educators.

CA: Do you have any examples of boot camp grads versus MSD grads?

Dr. Levi: One of our university trustees has a company in San Francisco. They have hired people out of boot camps and he said that boot camp graduates are pretty good, but their knowledge is fairly thin. The fact that they only get a fast 3 months of training shows that they don’t have strong knowledge of computer science and that’s something that we give our students.

CA: Many students would agree with you. Here’s what a current MSD student, Sirak Tekle, has to say:

“I wouldn’t recommend boot camps. It’s better to come here and join the extended track (18 months). People might save some money at boot camps, but it’s not about the money. It’s about their long-term goals. Students don’t learn enough at the boot camps because it’s impossible to learn that fast. If they know nothing to begin with, they won’t gain a deep core understanding of the programming language, as we do here at MIU. Here they teach us to think like an engineer, to solve problems on our own, and to understand the core of the study.”

CA: Has MSD been successful?

Dr. Levi: Yes, the program is doing very well. Our first class in August 2019 had 41 students, and in August 2020 we had 54.

Then, in February 2021 we started offering two entries per year. We admitted 53 in February, and 41 new students are arriving in August 2021 (a total of 94 students in 2021). Plus, we are having great success in placing 100% of the MSD graduates in top companies including Google, Citibank, USAA, Hays Companies, and others, with an average starting yearly pay of $91K, with a range of $70K – $130K.

CA: All of the MSD students learn Transcendental Meditation, but readers might like to know more about why we encourage them to learn the TM technique. From your perspective, how is this beneficial for MSD students?

Dr. Levi: MSD is a challenging program, and the students tell us that they couldn’t study for so many hours if they didn’t have 20 minutes of meditation twice a day. They say they are able to focus much longer and report that they have less anxiety and don’t get as stressed about doing well.

CA: Mo Hassan, another MSD student, said this about his meditation: 

“Honestly, I have no idea how, but the meditation works. If I’m tired or nervous or even panicking before exams, it helps. Meditating for 15 or 20 minutes settles me down and helps me focus. I think it will help when I graduate, move to a new city to start a new job, and have to learn everything about a new company and environment.”

CA: Do you think TM will help them in their new careers?

Dr. Levi: It takes a lot of time, energy, and dedication for people to be successful in the field of software development. Especially when they get into a company, it can be demanding, with many deadlines.  The software they write has to work. They can’t just do something that looks good, it can’t be sort of good — it has to work.  Technologies can be very challenging and there’s a lot of pressure to get it done on time and done right.

Software developers need to have quiet attention, the ability to focus, and remain calm so they won’t get upset when the going gets tough. We know from hundreds of research studies that the TM technique creates a state of inner calm and quiet attention, so it’s a huge help. And they need to be able to see the big picture.

CA: Can you say more about the “big picture?”

Dr. Levi: While software developers need to focus, they can’t get so attached to one point that they get lost in it. They need to step back and look at the big picture. Our students often report that they have the experience of working on a problem, then taking a break and meditating, and during that time they have some intuition or insight into a solution. It’s what we call an “aha experience,” which simply comes from taking the time to sit back and meditate.

CA: Can you tell us about the uniqueness of JavaScript and why it is the primary language taught in the Master’s of Software Development program?

Dr. Levi: JavaScript is the language of the web. All web browsers, Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox, etc. run JavaScript. When you use a browser, JavaScript is running in the browser to execute the front-end code for whatever website you are on. Every computer on earth that is connected to the World Wide Web is using JavaScript right now and it is evolving quickly. Our faculty is focused on keeping up with all the updates and teaching the latest frameworks and technologies. That is why our students are confident that they will find good jobs in the field.

CA: The students always tell me that they love the block system. Do you know if this is unique to MIU and why do you feel it is a great way to learn?

Dr. Levi: Our students do like the block system. For MSD, it’s critical to the program, and it’s one of the biggest advantages that we have over other universities doing a program like this. The big advantage of the block system is that the knowledge unfolds sequentially. We offer one subject at a time and each course builds on the next one. The students appreciate that they can really focus on each subject.

We can go very deep like that. In a semester system at other universities, students take 5 courses at a time and they don’t have the sequential building of knowledge that we can offer.

CA: Do you feel that your students are ready to get great jobs when they graduate?

Dr. Levi: They spent long enough, one year or 1½ years, and that’s sufficient time in an intense program like ours. Plus, they’ve learned the latest technology and frameworks which are in super high demand in the marketplace. The fact that they are US citizens or green card holders is also desirable in the market.

And they have the TM technique, the secret ingredient that is unique to MIU. It’s the greatest thing that comes out of this program, a hidden gem, and something that will be a huge boon in their career and throughout their lives, because it will keep them healthy and calm, with bright, clear minds.

Keith Levi and family MSD Faculty



MIU Professor wins industry award for research on wireless security

Dr. Renuka Mohanraj, Associate Professor in the Master’s in Software Development program and the Computer Professionals program at Maharishi International University, has recently been honored as a Fellow of the Computer Science Research Council (FCSRC) for her important research on wireless sensor networks (WSN) data security.

Her research was published in the Global Journal of Computer Science Technology: E. In this paper, she presents an algorithm she designed as a potential solution to the problem of wireless sensor networks security threats in the rapidly expanding field of the Internet of Things (IoT).

As a result of her research, in December 2020 she was also invited to give the keynote address at an International virtual conference on ‘Bridging Innovative Trends in Mathematics, Engineering & Technology.’ The subject of her address was ‘Internet of Things for Android.’


A Teacher who never stops learning

Prof. Renuka Mohanraj was recently honored for her advanced studies and outstanding research by being named a Fellow of the Computer Science Research Council (FCSRC)

Professor Renuka teaches several courses in the Master’s in Software Development program and the Computer Professionals programSM, including the very popular Mobile Device Programming (MDP). When she’s not teaching, she enjoys expanding her knowledge in many fields of interest, including mobile ad hoc networks, wireless sensor networks, secure data, and QoS routing, and her current favorite, IoT.

She explains why she’s so inspired to keep learning about IoT: “In sensor networks, IoT plays a vital role and gives me the motivation to grab the knowledge. I designed the MDP course in MIU’s ComPro program using Android. This course creates an interest to learn how to use IoT for Android devices.”

Renuka dynamically tailors the MDP course based on input from current students and alumni doing Android development. This feedback, along with her enthusiasm for research, keeps the curriculum on the cutting edge. Mobile device programming is a major market, and her class on the subject is highly valued by students because there are so many opportunities for Android programmers.

So, what’s it like to be in Professor Renuka’s mobile programming class?

“Students in this class enjoy doing their homework assignments because of real-time applications,” she says. “They gain practical knowledge, and start developing an app from the third week of the course.”