Huntsman Alumni Magazine

Fall 2011

My Favorite Professor: Professor Mixes Baseball, Rock Music, and Databases

By Sterling Morris

Think of yourself at a packed Blue Öyster Cult concert listening to the famous introduction to Blue Öyster Cult’s hit song, “Don’t Fear The Reaper.” Can you hear the main guitar riff in your head? Can you feel the growing excitement added by the drums and energized crowd?

Now picture yourself sitting in a business school classroom learning the theory and applications for designing, developing and maintaining database systems from a clean-cut, polite professor who always wears a white shirt and a tie. Which of these two scenarios sounds more fun and rewarding to you?

Before I experienced my first database class taught by Professor David Olsen, I would have selected the concert as the more rewarding of the two options. Since taking his database course, my opinion has changed.

Dr. Olsen comes to every class 15 minutes early. He starts his daily routine by taking a baseball and a few baseball gloves outside and playing catch with any students who want to join him. He also selects a daily classic rock song such as “Don’t Fear The Reaper” which he plays just before class begins. This made every day of his class almost feel like I was walking into a rock concert.

The type of database skills firms expect IT employees to have cannot be faked. These skills come only through the repetitive use of database software applications backed by an understanding of database theory. Dr. Olsen understands this need and has designed his curriculum to get database students up to a level where they can immediately contribute upon graduating.

Each database topic is first taught, then its skills are practiced in class, and homework is assigned to allow students to internalize what they learned. Finally, rigorous tests are spread throughout the semester to test students’ abilities on the content covered in class. All of this is done in an environment where students are free to ask questions at any point in the learning process.

I have always been impressed by the high level of academic quality I have seen Huntsman School professors bring to their classes. Dr. Olsen is no exception to this observation. He took a subject some might find dry and helped students learn it on a deep level, all because he made learning fun and rewarding. I now have tangible database skills I previously didn’t have.