Baylor > ECS > Alumni > Alumni E-Newsletters > May 2016 > Dr. Michael J. Donahoo
Faculty Q & A

Dr. Jeff Donahoo

Dr. Michael J. Donahoo

Dr. Jeff Donahoo is a professor in the Department of Computer Science. He currently serves as the faculty co-advisor for the student organization Computing for Compassion and acts as the Deputy Executive Director for the Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC). Dr. Donahoo has been a faculty member at Baylor since 1998.

Q: What is your favorite course to teach and why?

A: My favorite course to teach is Data Communications. Our students grew up with the Internet, but most never understood what is going on underneath. To peel back the layers of a service so fundamental to their lives is great fun. Each semester, students build actual network applications to see how the tools that they have come to depend on actually work. By the end of the course, students can build such systems on their own.

Q: What has your role as the co-advisor for the student organization Computing for Compassion (C4C) taught you?

A: Mainly, this role has taught me ways to help students interact with non-technical clients. Compassion-based ministries are looking for a service, not a technical burden. C4C provides students with an opportunity to learn to adjust their interaction to the client’s background and understanding, a valuable skill in their future job.

Q: You are currently the Deputy Executive Director for the ACM ICPC. How has this role changed your view of collegiate computer science programs?

A: ICPC reveals the power of competition as a driver for uplifting the skillset of problem solvers. It’s something we already understand in other areas, like athletics. Consider breaking the four-minute mile. It was thought to be impossible, but once someone ran a mile in four minutes, someone else had to run it faster to be the best. Competition took the impossible and made it possible. The same is true for problem solving. After a competition where others are solving more problems, you know that more is possible and you have more work to do. My involvement with ICPC has reinforced this idea that, through competition, we can set higher standards to make better problem solvers.

Q: You received your Ph.D. in Computer Science in 1998. What advice would you give to students who are considering a Ph.D. in Computer Science at Baylor?

A: Carefully consider and explore various areas of research before you commit. Take the time to explore the different possibilities. Our Ph.D. program presents a variety of research areas available to our students because of the diverse background of our faculty members. Students have the ability to survey a large number of research areas and find something that fits their background, talents, and interests.

Q: What trends have you seen among Baylor computer science graduates?

A: The variety of opportunities available to our graduates continues to grow. It’s always fun to learn what our students do after graduation. From pursuing a graduate degree to working for a small start-up or a large company, more and more our students are taking advantage of a wider variety of interesting ways to apply their skills.

Q: What is the one thing you wish you could change about your career to date?

A: Honestly, I can’t think of anything that I would change. Everything has worked out serendipitously. Teaching allows me to interact with students, something I really enjoy. My research allows me to independently decide the interests I want to pursue.

Q: How has working at Baylor impacted your life?

A: From the beginning, Baylor has been a great experience because of great students and faculty. Baylor is a faculty focused on providing a well-rounded education to all students. I have come to appreciate how people across the university come together to create incredibly capable and malleable graduates.

Q: How do you see the Computer Science program at Baylor changing over the next five years?

A: A big factor impacting the future of Computer Science at Baylor University is the addition of the Ph.D. program. The Ph.D. program will provide us with the opportunity to grow our faculty and open up an even wider range of research topics. I’m very excited about the prospects for the future, because it will really allow our students opportunities to learn in special-topics classes and research in areas tailored to their interest.

Q: What has been your most memorable classroom moment?

A: The moments that stand out the most are when students are able to understand and apply complicated concepts and knowledge to the real-world problems. Being there when "the light comes on" is the moment I enjoy most.

Q: Do you have any personal updates you want to share?

A: My eldest daughter, Michaela, is a sophomore geology major at Baylor, and my youngest, Mackenzie, is a sophomore in high school. My wife, Lisa, and I have the opportunity to volunteer with ICPC together.