Steven Haynes earns McMurtry Award, plans to fund student research

Erin Cassidy Hendrick
December 04, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Steven Haynes, associate teaching professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), recently received the 2016-17 George McMurtry Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award. As part of this recognition, Haynes presented the annual McMurtry Award Lecture, titled “Learning Scenarios in IST,” on Nov. 9.

Established in 2002, the McMurtry Award is given annually to an IST faculty member who teaches at least one undergraduate course at the University Park campus. Funded by George McMurtry, one of the founders of IST and former associate dean of the College of Engineering, the award celebrates faculty who demonstrate innovative teaching methods, a commitment to student learning, and creative interaction with students.

Haynes’ current and former students are the first to say he deserves the honor.

“He really showed me how you can teach in a way that doesn't even feel like a classroom,” said Ryan Delane, an IST alumnus and software developer at Microsoft.

In his first class with Haynes, Delane recalled that there was not a typical semester-long project planned. Instead, Haynes asked the class to collaborate on an idea for a new piece of software.

“The idea we selected, he found a way to teach the class using the development of that app while still hitting all the learning objectives,” he said. “That was a really cool way to do it.”

His project-focused teaching style undoubtedly comes from his extensive experience working for innovative companies like Apple and Adobe.

“In both the short term and long term, I establish in their minds the relevance,” Haynes explained. “I try to keep that in play: Why is what we’re working on relevant?”

This semester, he’s teaching a course on engineering complex software systems. In the course, students are developing “FoodMood,” a program for tracking food consumption and corresponding moods to identify potential correlations between the two. By creating this app, students are learning fundamental programming skills while also working on a tangible problem.

Delane explained that he appreciated that approach: “It's so much easier to get invested in and excited about a project like that whenever it feels like it's your own.”

Having joined the College of Information Sciences and Technology in 2000, its second year in existence, Haynes helped to create the curriculum for the Design and Development option within the IST major.

“IST has changed a lot,” he said. “We’re now established and that was really fulfilling to work on.”

And though he had a big role in the college’s curriculum development, his true passion remains working with students to help them to realize their full potential.

“I believe every student has the capacity to learn what we teach,” he explained, “but what they all don’t have is the motivation. That’s what I try most to develop.”

That is why he finds it most enjoyable to teach underclassman, particularly in the courses on introduction to software design.

“With freshman, you really have an opportunity to influence them positively,” he said. “When I hear from a student, ‘I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and then I took your class and now I want to do software development’ – that’s a big win for me.”

In addition to sharing wisdom through an annual lecture, the McMurtry Award also provides funding for a project of the faculty member’s choosing. True to his roots, Haynes plans to use the funds to support students on research development projects.

“Providing students with these opportunities to practice what they’re learning by solving a real problem is critically important,” he said. “I have a lot of undergraduates that work with me and the majority of them really leverage that experience for their careers.”

“The most fulfilling part of my job is when you see students start to engage with the material,” he concluded, “not just because something is due or because of their grade, but because they love doing it.”

Last Updated June 22, 2020