As an industry professional in leadership roles for much of her career, Sarah is driven by the philosophy of servant leadership which has served as a guiding principle to her teaching. She sees her role as one to empower students in the classroom and beyond, helping students develop the skills needed to be successful in the curriculum and their profession.  It is not enough to develop technical skills. While those are important, emotional intelligence is equally important to success.  Students must learn to be self-aware and aware of the non-verbal feedback they receive from those around them.

Sarah emphasizes the concepts of emotional intelligence in her classes, along with the importance of critical thinking.  Students should not consider learning as an ability to remember facts and regurgitate those on exams. By providing an open-ended project assignment in a freshmen class that challenges student to develop their own design (thinking creatively) then implement that design with new technology (thinking critically), she emphasizes problem solving and critical thinking.   No two problems students encounter in their career will be identical, thus no two solutions will be identical. Sarah believes in designing measures of learning that minimize the amount of knowledge that a student must pull from memory, and maximize the use of knowledge to derive a solution to a problem.  In her database systems class for example, she assigns take home exams with problems that require design and creation of real database objects to strengthen the ability of students to solve problems with technology and prevent mere memorization of database concepts.

In the complex world of information technology, students will be tasked with using technology to solve problems in a variety of domains throughout their career.  She frequently provides real-world examples of this from her two decades of experience in a Fortune 100 company.   As professionals, students will be faced with unexpected technical scenarios.  Computer systems thought to be highly robust will falter. They will face difficult personalities.  There is no textbook that can be referenced on demand that details how to deal with every one of these unique situations.  Sarah challenges inquiring minds by requiring students to research answers to their questions posed in class, and intervene to point them in the right direction when they are unable to find an answer. 

She encourages group work that develops interpersonal communication skills and provides valuable experience with the benefits and challenges in working within teams.  From her research in broadening participation in computing, she is aware of the importance of the social relevance of computing to many underrepresented groups.  Her approach in the software engineering senior design class is to identify projects that presented unique challenges, requiring students to stretch beyond their comfort zone to navigate the interpersonal relationships and analysis required to successfully define, define, and implement a real software project.  The projects chosen have included one with a ‘technical customer’ and tight process controls, a loosely-defined project with an intended audience of blind and low vision users (clear social relevance) and a non-technical customer, and a project with no vision from the customer for requirements but an obvious business need. 

Sarah is able to recognize situations when team projects are not the best approach.  She modified the approach in the database systems class from a traditionally team-based project to an individual project, requiring each student to design and create their own database.  From her experience in industry as a database programmer, she understands that to learn database programming and administration, like learning to drive a car, one must not be a passenger but must be the driver. 

In summary, Sarah's teaching philosophy involves the empowerment of students to be successful in the classroom and beyond. Students must develop the ability to think critically about problems never before encountered. However, they must also learn that the technical aspect of computing is only one component, and that to be successful in an information technology career one must also develop emotional intelligence.

In 2016, Sarah was inducted into the Bagley College of Engineering Academy of Distinguished Teachers.

To meet student demand, Sarah initiated the creation of and taught CSE 8990 Advanced Topics in Database.  As the instructor of record for CSE 1002 since Fall 2011, she received funding from the Bagley College of Engineering to support course content improvements through the use of robots for first year students.  In addition, she received a Schillig grant that was used, working with CSE 1233 instructors, to introduce robots into CSE 1233 to enable increased learning of computational thinking for non-CSE majors.  

Related Professional Development:

Mastering Teaching “Taking Pedagogical Risks”, 3/23/16

Working with Autism Students Training Session, 9/24/2015

QPR Gatekeeper training (suicide prevention), 4/21/2015

Career Development Seminar: “Culturally Responsive Teaching”, “Mastering STEM Education”, January 2015

Introduction to Blackboard Learn, April 2013

Teaching with Clickers for Deep Learning, November 2011

Best Practices for Online Instruction, October 2011



Sarah’s success in the classroom is evident from her consistent high ratings in student course evaluations while teaching multiple courses (often two each semester), courses at undergraduate, split, and graduate-only levels, and an average of 92 students each semester.  This is in addition serving as academic advisor to ~65 students in her first semester to ~165 students in 2016.