As students with hoodies pulled low over their eyes and coffees in hand file into a computer science lab at 8 a.m. and begin logging in, their professor enters with spirits high, opening his lesson with a pun about pointers; showing a photo of the dogs when talking about an object that stores the memory address of another value located in computer memory.
Trying to make the best of a dreaded early morning class, Computer Science and Information Systems Associate Professor Michael Rogers continues to make puns throughout the hour, which usually don’t land, but a slide featuring a Spongebob meme toward the end of class gets a few smirks and a snort from the back row.
In addition to always trying to engage with students, Rogers received the 2019 Governor’s Award for Educational Excellence for his contributions to the department’s curriculum.
According to a University news release, the Governor’s Award is given annually by the Missouri Council on Public Higher Education to an outstanding four-year university faculty member.
Rogers, who has taught at Northwest for 10 years, specializes in app development, game development and virtual and augmented reality technology.
Department Chair of Computer Science and Information Systems Carol Spradling nominated Rogers for the award. Spradling said she nominated him because he is adept at keeping up with changing technology and keeping Northwest competitive.
Spradling said Rogers implemented new technology into three classes last year, as well as attending several conferences, paid for out of his own pocket, to bring industry knowledge back to the University.
“I spend a lot of time on the internet, talking to colleagues and going to conferences,” Rogers said. “I’m also on a number of mailing lists for different people who are teaching computer science, and they’re talking about something new, and I think, ‘I should explore that.’”
Spradling said Rogers contributes greatly in curriculum writing, proposing new courses and keeping the department’s materials fresh and innovative.
“We are in an area where we are constantly updating our courses,” Spradling said. “We’re in what we call a cutting-edge field, but Michael (Rogers) I define as on the bleeding edge. He’s ahead of everybody else.”
Rogers introduced app development courses to the University several years ago, and he said they are his most interesting courses to teach.
“I’m teaching an independent study in watch OS, which is like the operating systems for the Apple Watch,” Rogers said. “And so I’ve got a student and she’s writing apps for the watch, so that’s really interesting to me because there’s all these subtle variations between the iPhone and the watch.”
Rogers said in spite of the ever-evolving curriculum, he hopes he never stops trying to entertain students, even if he doesn’t always get a laugh.
“I figure people should be having a good time while they’re learning,” Rogers said. “It should be a positive experience, and I try to make my classes as inviting as possible.”
Rogers said he hopes his students also hold onto a sense of curiosity since the field is driven by people who always want to know more or try something new.
“I hope they have that sense of joy of exploration because sometimes it gets beaten out of people at University, and that’s a shame,” Rogers said. “But the really best students, it’s in their DNA, and they never lose it.”
Rogers said his most curious students end up teaching him new things because they’re always bringing new technology, websites and ideas to him.
While flattered by the award, Rogers said he measures success less in accolades and more by student growth and learning. He also said he hopes that his influence on the curriculum leaves a lasting positive impact on the University.
“Every one of us just gives the curriculum a little nudge,” Rogers said. “If there are rocks in a stream, every molecule of water that goes by has no effect, but collectively, the rock ends up being smooth. I think that all of us contribute something to the curriculum to make it a little better.”