- September 1st, 2017
Darren Evans-Young arrived at UA as a freshman pre-med major in 1977. Inspired in part by the Computer-based Honors students he hung out with the University’s computer labs, his career took a different path. This fall, he will begin his thirty-first teaching students in CBHP, and in the classroom, Darren tries, like those students he met years ago, “to explain complex things in a simple way.”
Teaching, first on a volunteer basis and then as an Honors College instructor, was an addition to Darren’s primary job in the University’s computer center, but it is clearly a passion. All freshmen in CBH take his classes on general computing principles, regardless of their major or their career goals. His classes provide a crucial foundation, because as he notes, “Many students use computers, but most do not know how they work.” In class, he focuses on hardware and programming, but he also feels a responsibility to discuss the proper use of resources. In this age of social media, students cannot be reminded often enough about the importance of carefully deciding what to share about themselves online, he emphasizes, as the consequences of over-sharing impact future educational and career opportunities.
Since Darren teaches all freshmen, who arrive with diverse levels of knowledge and experience with computers, he notes that he plays a unique role in their education. “My job is to teach them how to think and solve problems on their own,” he says. As they move forward with research, he stresses to students that they should find projects that interest them, as their freshman courses have provided a foundation to go forward and learn what they need on their own, whether their work requires additional computer languages or other skills.
Darren also puts an emphasis on user interface, as every researcher gathers data and effective research requires that a user is able to input information in the intended way. Darren’s recognition of the importance of the user is clearly informed by the nature of his second, post-UA, career. After retiring from the computer center in 2007, Darren began working as a senior software engineer at Phifer Incorporated, where he writes software for plant floor operations. In this position, his work is about processes, data, and problem solving, the same topics that he addresses in class. As he talks about his work, both at Phifer and in the classroom, Darren articulates a passion for finding ways to work smarter and more efficiently. His lives out this principle in his day job and teaches it to his students in the classroom. “I want my students to be able to make suggestions, to think in different ways,” he says.
After three decades, what brings him back into the classroom for another year? “I like seeing the light bulb come on,” he says with regard to his students. “As long as they let me, I’ll teach.” This year, a particularly special student enters the program, as Darren’s daughter joins CBH.