Computer science sets off lightbulbs for Clark


By Jen Disney

A UNO graduate and teacher of almost four years, Professor John Clark instructs students in computer science. He teaches second- and third-semester C++ classes during the day, then goes home to program or play real-time strategy PC games. Some of his favorites include *Starcraft Broodwar, *Kohan games, and *Diablo.

Clark has been programming computers for nearly 20 years. With so much experience, it can be difficult to teach intro classes. He sometimes finds it troublesome to remember how concepts are first introduced, especially when not done on a regular basis. This is why he mostly teaches classes where students are expected to have a background understanding of the subject.

Clark’s interest in computers first sparked around junior high. Later, he started his college studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. UNL was one of the few universities in the nation to offer any form of computer science courses at the time of his enrollment. Clark did not graduate from UNL; instead he decided to take a break from college.

After waiting six years, Clark continued schooling at UNO for four years. It was here that he met Hasam El-Rewini, a person who would make a great impact on his life. If it were not for this instructor, he would not be teaching today, Clark says. El-Rewini gave off a certain presence that made the teaching profession appeal to Clark. Unfortunately, El-Rewini left UNO in the spring of 2001.

Quite a bit has changed for the computer science program in the past few years at UNO, such as the addition of the new Peter Kiewit Institution building.

“One of the few things that stayed the same was the difficulty of classes, so my students aren’t going through any more than I had to go through when I was in the program,” Clark says.

Students still may have to struggle at times with his classes. He does offer a few helpful hints, though. In order to stay ahead and keep up, he suggests reading assigned material. Although the idea may seem basic, it is amazing how much it can help. Often, students will not read enough or do not find it all that important. Students who have these study habits will not go far in one of Clark’s classes.

Other students who are really interested in the subject read the latest news updates on computer languages and operating systems. Doing this helps them to understand concepts and remember programming guidelines. Attempting to follow directions is also helpful. This appears to be more difficult for newer students.

Luckily, some of the easier things to understand for most of the classes are simple programming ideas. Clark says: “One of the most rewarding things about teaching is watching the light go on when a student finally understands a concept.”


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