Faculty Profile: Nigel Ward
Last Updated on January 06, 2020 at 12:00 AM
Originally published January 06, 2020
By UC Staff
Nigel Ward, Ph.D., revels in the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of computer science students at The University of Texas at El Paso. The campus, which recently announced it surpassed the $100 million threshold in research expenditures, is a place where students can think big, Ward said. It also provides a scenic setting for the 34-year teaching veteran, who enjoys the outdoors.
Name: Nigel Ward
Department/College: Computer Science / Engineering
What do you teach? I teach language processing: how to program computers to recognize speech, extract the meaning, and respond appropriately. I also teach human-computer interaction, programming languages, and so on, including occasionally prosody as a guest lecturer in linguistics courses.
How long have you been a teacher? 34 years.
What’s your favorite classroom activity or teaching technique? Problem solving, whether in small groups or in pairs, as assignments or in class, for real problems or toy problems. It’s the hardest thing, but also where the learning really happens.
What background and experience do you have in your field of study that benefits your students? I don’t just teach computer science, I live it. Our research group is exploring new forms of human-computer interaction and new ways to extract more information from spoken language data. So, we’re always doing software development. This keeps my skills sharp and makes it easy for me to focus my teaching on the stuff that matters most for practical success.
What do your students like best about your classes? The great variety of teaching methods and activities. That’s what always comes out in the course evaluations. And alumni who come back to visit often tell me how in their job they’re using what they learned in my class.
What do you love most about being a teacher? The difference I can make. Seeing a student grow from being just “a nice person with a lot of promise” to someone capable and confident, able to go out and build systems to solve real-world problems, is a minor miracle. It’s great being able to help it happen.
What are your hobbies? When you’re not teaching, grading or preparing for classes, what are you doing? I like to hike. Working in the kitchen or the garden is also a good way to clear my head.
What’s your favorite place on campus? The walkways around Centennial Plaza at noon, full of people and energy.
What advice would you give to an incoming UTEP student? Think big; aim high. Learn from your fellow students. Connect with people in the real world, not just online. UTEP and the campus community have so much to offer. Expand your horizons and have fun!