Computer science professor uses personal experience to shape first year


Joseph Barringhaus

Adam Sweeny, first-year teacher at Wichita State University, is a teacher for the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences.

Adam Sweeney, first-year engineering educator and Wichita State alumnus, reentered the classroom as a professor this semester after earning his master’s degree in computer science.

“[As a university employee], I have more sympathy for some of the struggles that the administration has to deal with,” Sweeney said. “As a student it is easy to just get frustrated with all the steps. Now, being on the faculty side, I see why some of these steps are required.”

Sweeney said his experiences as a student helped prepare him for teaching. He worked briefly in a co-op with NetApp, a storage and data management company, during his first year at Wichita State, and was a tutor with the Geeks squad.

Sweeney said he relies on his experience as a tutor to shape his lectures, along with student feedback to overcome some of his first-year challenges as a professor.

“In teaching, I hope for interaction with the students,” Sweeney said. “When dialogue occurs, everyone learns much better.”

Sweeney said he hopes to use his experience as a student to make others aware of the diverse range of campus resources available to them.

“I knew what kind of student I was, but not every student is like me,” Sweeney said. “I can see the system from the other side now and help equip different students.”

Sweeney said that in his entry-level programming classes, he tries to cater to his students’ differing abilities, teaching them adaptable skills.

He said he hopes to teach students problem-solving skills, as they are necessary for college and career achievement.

“In mechanical engineering, when you get into your first few classes, they tell you how to solve the problem,” Sweeney said. “In computer science, that problem-solving pattern is much harder to get across, and what I am trying to do is integrate problem-solving techniques with my intro to programming class.”

“Engineers solve problems.”

Ultimately, Sweeney said he hopes to help his students realize their passion for computer science.

“[ I want to ] be here to help the students learn the material they need,” Sweeney said. “While quite a few students treat college as a passive experience, I encourage them to take ownership of their education.

“What I want to do is enable their desire to learn — I can’t make them learn the material. But if I can tell that a student has a genuine desire to learn the material, I try to make that happen.”