Meet the Faculty - Chris Dovolis

Tell us about your journey to the University of Minnesota.

I grew up in the Twin Cities and actually started my University of Minnesota journey when I was 4 years old. I was a student in the child development preschool program, so I have been at the U of M for a very long time! I took a break during grade school and high school, but I came back to get my undergraduate degree in computer science and complete my graduate study.

I’ve always liked science. I enjoy making and building technical things. I have worked with computers since high school, but I started in seventh grade, helping my school with a new teaching computer. I was all about it and went to a training class with a local computer company to learn how to use it. I stuck with computers doing fun side projects on my own and that’s how I decided to pursue computer science in college. I didn’t really have to think about it. In fact, I enjoyed my classes and teachers so much that I wanted to do what they do. I became a teaching assistant (TA) when I was a graduate student and loved it.

After finishing my graduate work, I did interviews for different positions but I really enjoyed being around the U of M. I liked the environment, my students and the department. I was asked if I wanted to stick around for a year as a visiting lecturer, so I did. This ended up being a three year stint. Then, I worked in industry for 7 years, but stayed on as an adjunct professor because I didn’t want to give up teaching. I came back to the U of M full-time when our Department created a teaching faculty position for me.  I have been teaching for over thirty years.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? What are your teaching interests?

When I started out as a TA, the work was mainly holding office hours and grading assignments. Towards the end of my graduate work, I was actually teaching an introductory programming course; I think it was Intro to Pascal. I loved putting lectures together and trying to make things as clear and concise as possible. I was really excited about helping students understand and learn. 

The department has been fantastic. There is a lot of flexibility to choose the courses you would like to teach. I really like the intro-level computer science courses. I like the energy of big classes and the expectation that comes from students that are embarking on something new. Every course and every semester feels unique because of the students.

What courses are you teaching this fall? What can students expect to get out of that class?

This year I am teaching Algorithms and Data Structures all year - both fall and spring semesters. That course is typically the second or third class students take in the major. I love the class because it takes the fundamental information that students learned in their introductory class and gives them an opportunity to apply those skills to substantial projects. . Almost everything in this course is about applying new techniques and layering them on top of their programming skills from the first course. It is instrumental in equipping students for internships.

What do you do outside of the classroom for fun?

I play tennis and golf. I’m musical and play piano and a little bit of trombone with my son. I spend a lot of time with my wife,son and our Golden Retriever out on the water. We are also very active in our local church where my wife and I facilitate Sunday school, and I work with grade schoolers on Wednesday nights.

Do you have a favorite spot on campus or in the Twin Cities?

I absolutely love our new offices on the third floor of Lind Hall! Is that lame? I really enjoy going to my office and seeing students in the new study space. I love the great big windows and being so close to colleagues and staff. I also like the main mall in front of Northrop, and I spend a fair amount of time at Coffman for lunch.

Outside of that, my favorite spot is the lake. I love being on the dock or out boating.