Center for Excellence Honoree: Bruce WhiteBefore Bruce White, professor of information systems management, teaches students how to write computer code, build a database or network computers for business operations, he wants students to laugh. That can mean walking into class wearing a goofy spooky Halloween mask or hearing him shout "good morning" in a cheery voice that can wake up the most fatigued student.
"Having fun makes the learning experience better," said White, a recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award. "If you're tense, you're probably not going to learn as much as if you're relaxed."
Shouting "wooooooooooooo" to alert students class is starting is another of White's antics. "It sets a tone for fun and makes learning exciting and less threatening and intimidating," he said.
White loves comedy almost as much as he loves teaching. "I love seeing students grow and learn," he said. "I love seeing students get excited about opportunities."
His students feel the love. Alumnus Sanjay Modi was one of 12 people who nominated White for the award. "He illustrates the concept of how technology affects us all, yet reinforces it in a way that does not intimidate us," Modi wrote on his nomination form.
Student Michael Alfaro wrote, "He not only makes an effort to teach material, but he will also make the effort to start a friendship with his students."
White's mother, sister and aunt were teachers. They influenced him to become an educator while growing up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After earning a bachelor's degree in history and math from Winona State University in Winona, Minn., White taught math at West Grant High School in Patch, Wis., a town of 200 people. He returned to Winona State to earn a master's degree in math, graduating in 1973. Over the next nine years he taught high school math in Keokuk, Iowa, college algebra and computer programming at Winona State and basic computing at Mount Hood Community College in Portland, Ore.
White prefers teaching in college. He joined the faculty of Dakota State University in South Dakota to teach computer information systems from 1982 to 2000 and was dean of the business school from 1985 to 1990. He earned his doctorate in management information systems in 1990 from the University of Nebraska.
"Math doesn't change," White said. "Algebra is algebra. Calculus is calculus. Computers change every day. There's always something to learn. You have to learn how to learn."
Earl Chrysler, former chair of Quinnipiac's computer information systems department, recruited White to join Quinnipiac when they met at the Information Systems Education Conference in Chicago. Coming to Connecticut from South Dakota is what White calls "calculated spontaneity." Life is short," he said. "Enjoy life."
White enjoys life outside the classroom by playing the tuba. He began playing in the seventh grade. The school's band director had no tuba players. He needed someone with size to carry all that brass. White is 6 feet 3 inches tall. He didn't know he would have to carry around a huge instrument when he agreed to play. "I might have a Ph.D., but that doesn't mean I'm smart," White said smiling.
He played at the annual tuba Christmas event on the ice at Rockefeller Center in 2001 and plays for the Hamden Symphony Orchestra, Cheshire Symphony Orchestra and Quinnipiac's pep band. He's helped the band grow from five students to 20. The band plays at men's hockey games and some men's basketball games.
Junior Christopher Malico plays with White in the pep band. "I never thought I would meet a professor so dedicated to something outside the classroom," Malico wrote on his nomination form. "He is at every game and doesn't miss a practice."
Sophomore Michael Coutermarsh also plays in the pep band and nominated White. "I have never met anyone who is more excited about supporting the Quinnipiac community than Bruce," Coutermarsh wrote. "He is a constant joy to be around and lifts the spirits of everyone he encounters. One great experience I had with Bruce was seeing him at a women's hockey game. He had signs for all the players that he has had in class and supported them while they were on the ice. Seeing this dedication to his students made me proud to be a member of the Quinnipiac community.