Featured Faculty Profile
Tom Des Lauriers
Professor - DeVry University Houston
Teaching field: Business and Technology
"We also interact with companies that are potential employers for our graduates. For example, I take students on tours of the Toshiba plant nearby. We have a very good rapport with them; they've hired some of our students. We work hard to help our students succeed."
Where I come from
During my first career in the Marine Corps, I served two tours in Vietnam. Because I obtained a business degree early in my career, much of my later service involved finance. I was part of the team that developed the Joint Uniform Military Pay System. I also served as a Financial Management Instructor and managed the successful development and deployment of a Final Pay Settlement program for Marines being discharged from the Corps, for which I received the Navy Achievement medal. I retired from the Marine Corps in 1989 with the rank of Chief Warrant Officer.
Much of my work in the Marines involved teaching, and I enjoyed it, so when I retired, I went back to school and got a BA in Elementary Education and volunteered at various schools. I soon learned that I wanted to work with adults, because of all the bureaucracy in elementary schools. So I went back for a Master's in Education, Instructional Technology with a specialization in computers and distance education. In 2003, I left West Valley College in California, where I was the college web master as well as a tenured faculty member, to teach at DeVry University Houston and be near my daughter's family.
Education from all sides
If you come to DeVry University Houston, you'll probably meet me right away at Student Orientation where I usually conduct the computer training. I wrote the book on it too. I'm the Senior Instructor in the Computer Information Systems (CIS) department here. And I'm your fellow student at DeVry University, working towards another Master's degree, in Information Systems Management at Keller Graduate School. Finally, I serve as the Faculty Development Coordinator, maintaining the Resource web site which I created and conducting various monthly training sessions for faculty.
Desire, family, backing
The right challenge stimulates the desire to learn. My grandfather was an electrical engineer. He made me use the slide rule which forced me to learn advanced mathematics. My ninth grade history teacher used to challenge me by saying, "I am proud of what you have achieved but you can do even better." Her confidence in me made me want to do better. I try to convey the same to my students. I set high expectations because then they get closer to achieving their potential.
Sometimes students need a personal connection with a professor who is interested in them as individuals and as students. I chat with my students in the halls, eat lunch with them in the snack bar, and spend time with them in the Academic Study Center. They know they can count on me. I want them to succeed, here at DeVry University and in life. Sometimes we almost have to go back and teach them things their family didn't - about how to take responsibility, how to study, how to be on time to class, etc. Perhaps the most important thing is to teach them how to recover from a mistake before it hurts them. I give students a chance to make up work that they miss.
It made my day
Recently I received an email from a student who took my class at Coastal Carolina Community College 18 years ago. He's now a professor himself, and he said that it was because of the classes he had taken with me. The joy of teaching is to see the sparkle in students' eyes when they learn something that they did not know. That always makes my day. You never know where that sparkle will take them.
Show and tell
If you want to see some of the web development work my students have done, go to www.toms-server.us/sample_students.html. They keep copies on CD for their portfolio and I maintain their web site on my server so that they will always have samples to show potential employers. They have complete control over their work. As their skills progress, they can go back and upgrade their sites. I have my programming students submit their work every week on a CD and I host them on my server so they can see how the program actually runs.
Live long, learn more
DeVry University gives you the tools you need to achieve the goals you have set for yourself in life. It is only the beginning, though. I tell my students "When you get that degree, it opens the door for you, but you haven't finished learning. Education is a life-long endeavor. Continue to go to school off and on for the rest of your life." Three students in my CIS program who graduated last semester are back now for courses at DeVry University's Keller Graduate School of Management.
Learning is never wasted. After I retired from the Marines, I ran a tax and bookkeeping service for nine years while I got my education degrees and started teaching.
DeVry University is a full-fledged university like any other. There are a few differences from a traditional four-year college, but they enhance rather than take away from the quality of the education. For example, we have small classes that provide hands-on experience in lab environments. We have a much more flexible attendance policy. In some other colleges, if you miss x number of days, you're automatically dropped, even though you paid for the course. We don't drop our students. We bend over backwards to help students keep up with their course work even if their attendance is interrupted by family demands or job issues or other commitments like Reserve duty.
We also interact with companies that are potential employers for our graduates. For example, I take students on tours of the Toshiba plant nearby. We have a very good rapport with them; they've hired some of our students. We work hard to help our students succeed.