Kevin Conner, professor of information technology at Glen Oaks, is this year’s recipient of the E.J. Shaheen Teaching Excellence award.
Conner will be honored Friday at the college’s commencement ceremony.
Conner is said to be a captivating and caring instructor who works hard to makes sure his students fully understand concepts and succeed in their classes and plan for the future. He has worked to expand the range of information technology program offerings.
Beyond the classroom, he began “Gaming Club” a few years ago. Pre-pandemic, he spent three or four hours on weeknights, as well as Saturday mornings, to provide time for like-minded students to gather to advance their gaming and social skills.
Conner, a native of Sturgis, long had considered studying computers. But after graduating from Sturgis High School, he worked in residential and commercial painting in addition to working part-time at Porter Drug Store. After suffering a life-changing health condition affecting his mobility at age 29, he recalls driving to Glen Oaks and making the decision to attend college.
“I sold my fishing boat and trailer, and a few other assets to pay for a basic computer . and I began classes as an adult student,” Conner said.
Shortly into his studies, he was offered a part-time position as a media assistant at the college’s media center. That marked the beginning of a 27-year career at Glen Oaks.
In 1997, Conner received an associate of applied science degeree in business, with a focus on microcomputer applications. During commencement, he was honored with the President’s Award. He also received the Wall St. Journal Award in recognition of excellence in academics.
Following graduation, Conner continued working part-time at the media center and soon was offered an opportunity to teach a data processing class at Glen Oaks.
“I was surprised at the opportunity and nervous about the teaching assignment,” Conner said. “But it actually went quite well.”
He also taught the following semester while pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Davenport University’s Kalamazoo campus. He received a bachelor inapplied science, specializing in e-commerce, in 2003, before obtaining a master of science in 2005 from Capella University, where he specialized in computer networking.
HeI taught as an adjunct and that turned into a part-time teaching position. During the last year of his master’s program, he became a full-time faculty member.
Conner has been instrumental in advancing the information technology department, according to the college.
“When I started, we didn’t have strictly information technology degrees,” he said. “Computer classes were offered through the business department.”
One of the first classes he brought to the program was a computer repair course, followed by a computer networking course. Early programs focused more on web development, but as processes became more automated, through use of content management systems such as WordPress, demand for those programs decreased, Conner said.
More recently, he spearheaded the effort to bring a couple cybersecurity programs and an associate of computer science degree to campus.
Through the years, Conner has seen a lot of change on campus. For one, classes are more hands-on and engaging, he said.
“They say you can lose a student’s attention in less than a second, so you need to be mindful of that,” he said. “Instructors need to keep things short and to the point. Changes in technology through the years has made that all the easier for me.”
The E.J. Shaheen Chair for Teaching and Excellence Award was initiated in 1984 with a donation from E. J. Shaheen, one of the initial Glen Oaks Board members. Shaheen, a college professor, lawyer and business owner, placed high value on education and spent much of his life promoting high-quality education and education institutions, including Glen Oaks.
The award is administered through Glen Oaks Foundation.