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Featured Faculty Profile

       

Jim Brice

Professor - DeVry University Phoenix
Teaching field: Electronics
"Our students start as strangers, but it's not long before they know each other well. Usually they stay together until they graduate, so they develop into a real tight-knit group. They help each other out, they are not afraid of asking another student for help. In the process, by the time they are seniors, they are good at teamwork, which is an essential skill for career success. Our classes are small &: typically 6–30 to a class—so it's more like family, less like class."

Where I come from

My bachelor's degree was in electronics engineering technology, but I had a major in industrial technical teacher education. It was funny how that came about. At ASU, the electronics department was on the third floor. One day during registration, the elevator opened on the wrong floor while I was talking to a friend and I got out. I walked into an office that looked identical to the one on the third floor and talked with the secretary about my courses.

The person who became my guidance counselor, teacher and master's thesis adviser, Dr. Carl Bartell, was standing there. He asked if I had ever thought about teaching; I had. Then he asked which characteristics of my favorite teacher I thought I could bring into the classroom, and which characteristics of bad teaching I could keep out. We went to his office and talked, and I began leaning toward teaching. This was soon after Russia launched the first space satellite, Sputnik. We needed more skilled technicians, and there was a push on to train teachers.

Becoming the expert

Dr. Bartell impressed me a lot. The day I had to defend my thesis, he walked me down the hall to the examiners. I was nervous, of course. He said, "You did the research on this paper, right?" I said yes. "You wrote it up and typed it, right?" Yes, I did. "Well," he said, "they just read it. They are not the experts. You're the expert." As I stepped through that door, I looked at myself differently and handled the questions differently. He knew how to teach.

The top of the ladder

I've taught at DeVry University Phoenix since 1974. I get a charge out of seeing my students graduate and do well. I meet them out and about, and they tell me such interesting things about what they are doing. They have jobs in the communications industry working on things like electronic filter design and transmitter design. Most of them now seem to go to work in the semiconductor manufacturing industry; I teach a course in that. They go into the field not as operators of the equipment but as equipment engineers and technicians.

Some of my former students are now presidents of their own engineering companies in Silicon Valley or executives near the top of semiconductor manufacturing companies, making way more money than I make.

Keeping up, getting ahead

During college, I worked at a company that designed and built prototype test equipment. We did automation of manufacturing plants - process control, instrumentation, and measurement. These remain strong interests of mine. I stay on top of the electronics industry through reading and continued education. I am a member of IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and attend training seminars on specific topics.

Pick a specialty

The general electronics field is so broad and growing so rapidly that students now need to specialize more. It used to be enough to know the basics; you'd pick up everything else you needed on the job. The DeVry University electronics curriculum is set up to teach the fundamental principles well, so that students have the ability to keep on learning after graduation. It also allows them to concentrate on specific areas, such as industrial controls or integrated circuit manufacturing.

A tight-knit group

Most students don't know much about electronics when they arrive, but they know a lot when they graduate. We prepare them well. In addition, we teach them thinking skills - insight, intuition, problem solving, verbal and written communication skills. All those things round out a student. In their careers, they need to know more than just basic electronics.

Our students start as strangers, but it's not long before they know each other well. Usually they stay together until they graduate, so they develop into a real tight-knit group. They help each other out, they are not afraid of asking another student for help. In the process, by the time they are seniors, they are good at teamwork, which is an essential skill for career success. Our classes are small - typically 6-30 to a class - so it's more like family, less like class.

In the classroom

For me to succeed as a teacher, I need to be comfortable with the material, so I work hard to keep up with the field. I'm very patient; I very seldom get upset with students. If there are six people in class, there are six different personalities. I work around their personalities to get the material across. I like to bring some semblance of humor into class. I'm not a stand-up comedian, but we talk about funny things that can happen, such as connecting a circuit upside down, applying voltage, and melting the plastic around the component.

Outside contacts

I like to see students outside class - literally outside. We'd go on four-wheel drive trips, and camping and hiking. Once we had Hawaiian students and we took them up to the mountains to camp in snow. We also chat when we meet around campus.

Why DeVry?

We are an accredited, degree-granting college. We uphold intellectual standards with rigor. Industry recruiters come in to interview our students, and there is a lot more demand than supply. Industry is coming in hungry for new employees; this country still does not have all the skilled technicians it needs.

For the foreseeable future, if you come to DeVry University, you will have a great opportunity for a career. When you graduate, you can go to virtually any industry you want. When I have six graduates and a large company comes in and wants to hire, the competition is intense. They try to entice the students with more benefits and more pay.