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Student Spotlight on Rachael Shudde

Rachael Shudde (’18) is a recent May graduate who majored in computer science and math from Ovalo, TX. During her time at ACU, Rachael was involved with Mu Sigma, the Honors College, Ko Jo Kai social club, worked as a research assistant, interned in D.C., interned with NASA, and much more. After graduating in May, Rachael will be attending Texas A&M to earn her masters in statistics and will be working with Lockheed Martin as a data scientist and analyst while at school. “Statistics is a combination of everything I like,” said Rachael. “I can work with people, use my computer science and data skills, and help explain problems.” Rachael is particularly excited to attend Texas A&M for graduate school because of their emphasis on astrostatistics and telescopes around the world that yield interesting data. At Lockheed Martin, Rachael is most excited to work on real-world applications of her skills. “It’s very different to solve problems in an environment where someone does not have the answers,” she noted. “It’s also very exciting to work on problems that do not have answers.”

Rachael Shudde

Rachael feels that ACU has prepared her well and the opportunities that she was able to take advantage of are one-of-a-kind. Especially in her areas of study, a lot of Rachael’s work was self-involved and required her to research and actively learn. She learned to establish what she does not know and make a plan to find the answer. Rachael’s love for learning, work ethic, and motivation from her teachers helped her achieve all that she has. However, the biggest impact ACU had on Rachael was not in the academic sphere. “I gained a lot of confidence in myself,” said Rachael. “Because of the faculty and mentors I have encountered, I am confident in who I am and my abilities and very happy with where I am at.” Rachael’s faculty, staff, and peers have all played instrumental roles in her life. Getting involved with her department allowed Rachael to meet awesome people and friends and helped create close relationships with the faculty. “The personal relationships I’ve built here are amazing and so special to ACU,” she said “It is visible how much the professors care.” While Rachael is excited for the future and what lies beyond graduation, she will also miss ACU where she has grown and felt so blessed and ACU will certainly miss her.

SITC Celebrates Graduates at Senior Dinner

Faculty and staff of the SITC celebrated with graduates and their families at a dinner at Lytle Land & Cattle Company on Friday night. It was a time for those in attendance to celebrate milestones, reflect on their educational journey, and recognize talented students and faculty.

Faculty awarded outstanding seniors for the following:

Charlie Velazquez, Digital Entertainment Technology major, received the Inspiring Leadership Award with faculty members saying, “Over the last two years, he has distinguished himself with his attention to detail in creating incredible 3D models.  He has inspired an entire group of underclassmen to a higher standard of game development.”

 

Collin Blanchard, Computer Science major, received the Award for Commitment and Resiliency. When asked about Collin, faculty said, “During his time at ACU, this student has shown great determination and willingness to learn whatever was asked of him. He has approached difficult problems with a consistently positive attitude and has made a positive impact on students around him.”

John Wolfe, Information Technology major, received the Pursuit of Excellence Award. Faculty said about John, “Over the past four years, he has distinguished himself among his peers as someone with a positive attitude and a persistent drive to search for and find answers. His motivation, perseverance and relentless pursuit of excellence has been evident in all that he does. He never gives up, even with the most complex problems and serves as an example to many.”

Korbin Ancell, Computer Science major, received the Application and Ingenuity Award. Faculty said of Korbin, “He is always involved with multiple projects both inside and outside the classroom in addition to working 2 to 3 part-time jobs. His exceptional curiosity has made him both a great student in the classroom, as well as leading him to accomplish a wide range of inventive projects of his own inspiration. He has developed a reputation around campus as the “go-to student” who can help with a wide range of technical projects.”

Alani Peters, Computer Science major, received the Research Dedication Award. Faculty said this about the final award recipient, “During her time at ACU, she has rigorously applied herself to the pursuit of research. She has contributed to each project through countless hours of hard work and has seen the fruits of her labor as publications in highly respected conferences with her professors and her peers.”

University Scholars, George Bush, Caleb Martin, and Nevan Simone were recognized at the dinner as well. These students were nominated by department faculty and recognized overall by the university as “excelling in scholarly activity appropriate to their disciplines.” Only fifty ACU students are recognized each year and this year, three of them are graduating from SITC.

Dr. John Homer received this year’s SITC Teacher of the Year award, presented by last year’s winner, Dr. James Prather. The Teacher of the Year award is voted on by all students in the School of IT and Computing. Students had this to say about Dr. Homer: “He is an incredible professor who cares about his students and takes the time to make sure the information is understood. He is an example of humility, Christian leadership, and quiet compassion. He’s also brilliant, an avid learner, and incredibly funny (but don’t tell him that). Dr. Homer somehow makes running the department, delivering polished lectures, and leaving time for family look easy.  His professionalism and kindness toward both students and faculty is truly inspiring.  I can think of nobody more deserving of this recognition.”

Congratulations to the award winners and to all of the graduating students in the School of Information Technology and Computing. Go change the world, Wildcats!

For a complete look at the pictures from the SITC dinner, click on this link.

 

For 3rd Year in a Row, ACU’s DET Major in Top 50 Undergraduate Programs

For the 3rd year in a row, the Digital Entertainment Technology major has been recognized as one of the top undergraduate Game Design majors.  That means that every year since the program has been eligible, the Princeton Review has ranked ACU’s DET major in the top 50 undergraduate programs, internationally.
The Princeton Review released its ninth annual ranking lists on March 13th, naming the best undergraduate and graduate schools for students to study and begin a career in game design.  The publication surveyed 150 schools both in the United States and internationally that offer a degree or courses in the game design major, looking at many different aspects of the programs, such as facilities, academic offerings, and career outcomes along with 40 points of data in the areas of academics, faculty, technology and career. Readers can view the profiles of the ranked schools as well as learn more about the process the Princeton Review used to asses the schools by clicking on this link.

Rich Tanner and Brian Burton

Rich Tanner, Clinical Professor of Digital Entertainment Technology, said “We are honored to receive this distinction yet again, and I am extremely proud of the hard work, dedication, and learning that our students are doing that make this recognition possible.”Dr. Brian Burton, Associate Professor of Digital Entertainment Technology, said “It thrilling to once again be recognized by the Princeton Review for what we have accomplished in game development.   We have Digital Entertainment Technology majors all over the country working for major game companies and creating amazing content.  This Spring semester we have already published Virtual Reality content to Steam and we are preparing games that will soon be announced.”

Now presenting Dr. James Prather…

We’re celebrating with Dr. James Prather the successful defense of his dissertation and earning his Ph.D. after years of hard work and dedication. Defending a dissertation is the culmination of a long and laborious doctoral program, usually taking place over the span of many years. The dissertation defense is, in its self, a momentous milestone that signals reaching the pinnacle of one’s graduate student career. We’ve asked Dr. Prather to share with us his thoughts on the process.

What did you major in as a doctoral candidate?

The PhD is in Computer Science and my research focus area is Human-Computer Interaction.

Prather defends his dissertation.

What were the biggest challenges you faced in this process?

Teaching full time while also being a full time PhD student.

 

What were your most satisfying achievements during this process?

The publication of papers that I wrote, including work out of my dissertation.

The committee looks through Prather’s disseration slides during his presentation.

What did you learn that most surprised you?

When I was studying for my comprehensive exam in Computer Networking, I ran across a surprising little story: an undertaker named Almon Strowger found out that the wife of his competitor was the town telephone operator and was directing any calls for an undertaker to her husband rather than Strowger. So Strowger invented automatic telephone switching to remove humans from the decision making process and let an impartial machine do the job instead. It’s amazing what often drives technological innovation!

 

For students thinking about pursuing graduate school, what advice would you give them?

Find yourself a study group and communicate regularly – it’s a lifesaver. Get to know your professors and get involved in their research. Treat school like a job: go to work, do your work, come home and leave your work at work. Get some sleep!

 

You do a lot of research and projects with students. Please tell us what you have been doing this year and how you have engaged students in the process.

This year I have been mentoring a group of nine senior students who formed a local chapter of SIGCHI (Special Interest Group in Computer-Human Interaction). They developed a research idea, carried out an experiment, analyzed the data, wrote up the results, and submitted it to a top-tier international conference (SIGCHI 2018) and were accepted. In April, we’ll be traveling to Montreal, Canada, to present the paper and enter into that conference’s student research competition. I have also mentored an individual student in a one-on-one capacity who carried out her own research project during Fall 2017. Both the large group and the individual student will also be presenting at the ACU undergraduate research festival. Finally, I also involve a student or two in my personal research into how novice programmers learn to code and how we can make better user interfaces to increase usability and learnability.

 

What are you looking forward to now that you have successfully defended your dissertation?

Definitely spending more time with my family.

A happy Prather with his dissertation advisor after a succesful defense.

Anything else you’d like to mention?

My wife, Erin, deserves a big shout-out because while I was spending most nights and weekends at work, she was often at home alone with our small children. This PhD was a team achievement, for sure! Also, I don’t think that it would have been possible to complete the PhD without the support and encouragement of my colleagues here at ACU. The faculty with whom I work have all been through this process and have been sympathetic and even offered to help where they could. The staff have gone out of their way to help me when I was beyond busy. I’m so very grateful to work at ACU and I’m looking forward to the years ahead spent right here.

COBA Welcomes Rich Tanner

Rich Tanner

COBA would like to welcome Rich Tanner, new Clinical Professor of Digital Entertainment. Rich has taught for the School of Information Technology and Computing part-time for the past several years and will now be working with technology students on a full-time basis. Tanner has an A.A.S. in Computer Graphics and Programming from Missouri State University, a B.S. in Information Technology with a Concentration in Graphics and Game Development from Abilene Christian University, and a M.S. in Human Computer Interaction from Iowa State University. Rich was contracted as an iOS Developer and Consultant for the KAART Group, was contracted to develop a number of mobile applications for ACU, and worked as a Mobile and Senior Software Developer for USAA. Tanner teaches 3D Modeling, Animation, Mobile Application Development, Game Asset Creation and Texturing, and Character Creation in Maya, Photoshop, and Unity. Tanner brings skills and ingenuity to his classes that will instruct and develop technology students in new and exciting ways.

 

What do you teach at ACU?

The cool stuff!  As a DET faculty, I get to teach 3D Modeling, Animation, and Mobile Application Development (a CS course).

What committees/other duties do you have at ACU aside from teaching?

I have been assigned as a Developer Mentor for Wildcat Software, our student run software company.

What drew you to teaching? Why did you want to work with students?

It’s what I do!  Even at USAA, I often found myself drawn to roles where I could teach and mentor new employees and interns.  My wife and I also spent 3 years as Youth Ministers while we were in Plano, and I’ve been practicing my teaching on my own children for the past 19+ years.  I love seeing people get excited about new ideas and material, and helping people realize their potential.  Plus, I just generally get excited about the kinds of things that I get to teach!  It’s only natural to share that excitement with a room full of people.

Outside of teaching, what passions and hobbies do you have?

Obviously, I enjoy spending time with my family.  My wife and I have been married for almost 21 years, and we have four children. Richelle, who is 19, is a new transfer student to ACU, studying Elementary Education.  Kira is 15 and goes to Abilene High.  Xandra is 12 and is a student at Craig Middle School.  And Connor, who is 7, goes to Bonham Elementary.  Connor is the only boy, and was born here in Abilene right before I graduated from ACU.  We all enjoy watching lots of movies together and playing various games.  I spend my free time (when I have any) working on home renovations, playing video games (usually single player adventures), and doing lots and lots of reading.