Metro Coffee was chaotic with its afternoon bustle of students feening for a caffeine boost, steamers churning milk, and laptop keys clicking away in all corners of the shop. Dr. Donald Chinn ducked in the door and smiled warmly as he settled into the cushy, rolling arm chair by the door. His quick humor and easy smile made it easy to see why so many students have found him a pleasure in the classroom, especially amidst the mathematical algorithms and data structures common in his computer science classes.
Dr. Chinn has been an Associate Professor at the Institute of Technology since 2008 and a faculty member at UW Tacoma since Autumn 2002. Having been nominated a number of times throughout his time at the university, 2014 was finally his year, being chosen as the honoree of the Distinguished Teaching Award. Nominations can come from students, faculty and alumni, and teachers can even nominate themselves, although Dr. Chinn, laughing, assured me this was not the case for him.
According to the Office of the Chancellor, nominees must fit the following criteria: “demonstrates excellence and continued development in own teaching, integrates scholarship into teaching, inspires excellence in students, provides for significant individualized student learning through advising, mentoring, field work, independent study or graduate projects, for example, integrates a knowledge of community into teaching and learning in the classroom and/or through such experiences as field work, and service learning, stimulates and supports active and continuous learning to meet student/learner needs and perspectives using creative instructional methodologies and selection of course content, and demonstrates leadership in course and curriculum development” which, with his experience, Dr. Chinn undoubtedly does. Other 2014 nominees included Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences’ Katie Baird, Alison Cardinal, Chris Demaske, Jim Gawel, Janie Miller, and Riki Thompson, Tarna Derby McCurtain from Social Work, Lisa Hoffman in Urban Studies, and Arindam Tripathy and Doug Wills from the Milgard School of Business.
During our conversation, Dr. Chinn shared two separate research projects that extended beyond his theoretical computer science courses and branched into pedagogical practices and psycho-social perceptions in business. The former examined problem solving workshops for computer science majors and their effect on student success, and the latter explored the ethics within the computer science field and how a diversity-themed mission statement could affect resume viewing and hiring selection. This piqued interest in interdisciplinary research is a great indication of the type of professor Dr. Chinn is and why he was recognized for his outstanding achievements this year.
On June 12, 2014 Dr. Chinn will accept his award at the UW award ceremony in Seattle then go on to join the committee for the next year’s Distinguished Teaching Award nominees.