Professor Tina Xing’s Five Tips for Student Success
Meet Professor Rujuan (Tina) Xing, who has been an MIU faculty member for seven years, and learn why she loves teaching MSD students. Like you, Tina had no prior computer programming experience, so she knows how to teach this knowledge in ways you can understand. You’ll enjoy reading the amazing story of how she found MIU and joined the MIU faculty. Her approach to teaching is unique and thorough so be sure to read TINA’S FIVE TIPS FOR STUDENT SUCCESS.
“My undergraduate degree was in Automation, and I learned to program later, so I know from my own experience that students can become masters of programming without prior experience. I thought I could help the students because I was like them. I also know that learning a new technology is stressful and there’s so much pressure during the first stage.
When I was working as a developer, most of the time I thought if it works, great. We didn’t have to think about deep theory. As a professor, I need to understand the content because I must explain it to the students. However, some students understand one way, and others learn another way, so I must teach in the way they need to learn…. I’m proud of them and proud of myself when I can help them understand the content.” ~ Professor Tina Xing
Interview by Christine Albers (CA)
CA: I love your approach to teaching, Tina. Can you tell us about your journey to MIU?
Professor Tina: My husband and I learned about MIU in China before we were married. We saw ads on the internet, and he said, “You try it first. Go there and find out if it is real.”
I joined the MS in Computer Science, (ComPro), in 2012. When I arrived in the United States from Nanjing, Jiangsu, China, everything was new. I had no relatives or friends, and I was lonely. But soon MIU became like a second hometown. It provided a peaceful, friendly, and helpful environment which cured my homesickness. I made new friends among my classmates and learned lots of technologies from my professors, and gradually it felt like home.
After receiving my MS from ComPro, I worked for 3 years in Austin TX, where I always talked about how wonderful and peaceful I felt in Fairfield. I was so lonely in Austin, so I worked overtime and spent weekends in the office, until one day my boss came in on a Sunday afternoon and said, “Tina, go out and enjoy your life.”
I went back to China for a short visit in 2013 and my husband and I were married. I applied for the F-2, spouse visa, and he came here in 2014 and worked remotely in management for his Chinese company. Eventually, his company didn’t want him to work abroad so he lost his job. I suggested applying for MIU’s Computer Professionals MS program (ComPro) and he joined in 2015.
CA: What has been your experience as a faculty member?
Professor Tina: It’s wonderful here. I left Austin and joined the MIU faculty in September 2015, so I’ve been a faculty member for over seven years. I hadn’t expected I would stay so long. I thought I would leave earlier, but it turns out that I love this place.
Right after I joined MIU faculty, my husband graduated from ComPro and took a job in San Jose. We had spent most of our married life apart, so we were used to it. But in 2020, when Covid 19 struck, his company laid off many of their employees, and he came back and joined MIU faculty. It’s been wonderful to live and work in the same place.
If we hadn’t had Covid 19, probably I wouldn’t have my baby girl. We couldn’t put her in daycare, as she was so young, so there was only me and my husband to take care of her. We asked MIU to schedule our courses so one of us was always home to take care of her and we really appreciate that the school did that for us. It was amazing.
Another wonderful aspect of MIU is that we all practice TM. My meditation has been very helpful for me as well. My personality has become calmer. I can be a quick-tempered person, but after meditating for many years, I feel my temper is easier. I can still get excited, and my voice can get louder and louder, but I catch myself and calm down. It’s spontaneous, like self-awareness that alerts you.
CA: What subjects do you teach?
Professor Tina: At the beginning, I taught only ComPro courses but there’s one course, Web Programming (WAP), which is very related to MSD. When the MSD program was created, the MSD Director, Professor Asaad Saad, asked if I could teach some courses for MSD.
CA: What is special about teaching MSD students?
Professor Tina: These students are so enthusiastic about learning new technologies. They ask lots of questions which makes me think deeper about how to help them master this content. I had to find several different ways to teach, and it improved my own knowledge and teaching abilities.
When I was working as a developer, most of the time I thought if it works, great. I didn’t question why it worked. As a professor, I need to understand every aspect of the content, so usually, I ask myself 3 questions: What, how, and why? By doing so, I can explain it to the students well. However, some students understand one way, and others learn another way, so I must teach in the way they need to learn.
With some students, I can give them a hint and let them think. But some students don’t learn well that way. I must guide them from beginning to end to find the answers and give them the chance to think on their own. So, I give them another problem to solve, and if they can solve one problem, I change some part of it, so that it’s completely different. Slowly I change the question bit by bit until they understand it. I’m proud of them and proud of myself when I can help them understand the content.
CA: What inspires you about the students and how do you keep them motivated?
Professor Tina: Most of the MSD students left their families in other countries and came here alone. They are very keen on mastering the languages and everything we teach them. In class, we have a professor/student relationship, but after class, we are friends and share hobbies. But I still try to make learning fun while we are in class. When students are very tired, and their brains cannot absorb any more knowledge, it’s better to have a rest. As Maharishi said, “rest and activity are the steps of progress.” Sometimes I play a little bit of a funny Chinese movie to make them laugh. It’s very helpful for making them feel fresh, so we can continue in class.
CA: How does MSD prepare students for great jobs?
Secondly, the courses we teach in the MSD program are also cutting-edge. We stay up to date with what is popular and is getting a lot of attention so we can share it with our students. We build the curriculum, even though there are new technologies, and we still compare new versions with old versions. Not all our graduates will join a company and start on a brand-new project. Some companies might be using old versions of frameworks. So, we teach old and new versions and compare the new versions and how they improve the old versions. This will help them find a very good job when they graduate from MSD.
We also teach them how to learn a new language on their own, because we only teach one language and a selection of frameworks. When they get a job, they will experience many other technologies, so we help them develop the ability to learn things by themselves, quickly and easily.
Even if I was not on the MIU faculty, I would recommend this program to friends, because it is a comprehensive program that guides them from having no experience to becoming a master of this knowledge and eventually finding a good job as a software developer.
CA: Do you have any advice for students who want to join the program?
Professor Tina: As I mentioned before, my major was Automation. I had no programming experience, so in the first month when we learned Java, I didn’t understand anything at all. It took me one or two months to feel like I knew what I was doing, such as why a particular line worked or didn’t work.
I have learned a lot from my experience and I’m happy to share my tips for success with anyone interested in becoming a computer professional and joining the MSD program.
Professor Tina’s Five Tips for Success:
- Stay confident. Be brave enough to explore a new area. You may not know what will happen in the future but stay confident in your decision to join the MSD program. You cannot go back and rethink once you are here. Just go for it.
- Don’t compare yourself with others. Some people will be slower, and some will be quicker. Use your energy efficiently and focus on your studies. When we learn new things, we tend to compare ourselves with other students. Don’t compare. Just do your best.
- Practice on your own and review. You may think you understand everything the professor says in the lecture, but after class, you need to practice and do your own work, so you don’t forget what you learned. You must review frequently, or you will forget quickly. Try to code every line by yourself to make the knowledge yours. Only when you code by yourself will you find the parts you have not mastered.
- Get a whiteboard and write a program from scratch. Keep trying again and again until you can write the program by hand, from beginning to end, without errors. As you do this more and more you will retain the knowledge you learned in class. And it will help prepare you for interviews in the future.
- Maintain a feeling of success, not failure. Don’t lose confidence and feel like you could fail. Try a third way, a fourth way, even a fifth way, and you will find a solution. Don’t be beat! Remember we are all here to help you on your path to success.
CA: Many thanks to you, Tina, for sharing your story and your tips for success!