- What classes do you teach in the Comm Lead program?
I teach an MCCN elective called “Innovation Communities” that tracks some new ways that people are using online communities harness the power of distributed teams on the Internet to create new innovation and solve tough problems. I also teach an MCDM elective that is a skills-based “get your hands dirty” class on programming and data science for online communities for people with no previous experience.
- What is your teaching style and philosophy?
My classes have very different styles. My innovation class is a mix of lectures and case studies. I have a background of teaching at the business school at MIT where I did my PhD and I love the “case method” when it can help students puzzle their way through tough questions. The data science class is more lab-based.
My general philosophy emphasizes application of skills toward solving real problems that students actually care about. As a student, I hated busy work and I refuse to inflict it on my students. All of my classes are project based and I don’t give tests of quizzes. Ideally, everything you do or write in my class will be something that gets you closer to solving a problem you have outside of class.
My classes tend to be front-loaded in the sense that I try to give students the tools, concepts, and skills as quickly as possible. Once we’ve got those, the class switches into project mode as I encourage and work closely with students and they apply the stuff we’ve learned toward solving problems that they care about and that are meaningful to their personal or work lives.
- What has been your favorite non-academic work experience or job position?
As a teenager, I cleared land on Vashon with two Tibetan monks and a drunken supervisor. That was exciting. My favorite was probably being part of the teams that conceptualized and built the Ubuntu operating systems and the One Laptop per Child projects. I’ve got no plans to head back to the startup world but watching a project you’ve poured your life into take off enormously is an absolutely incredible experience.
- What’s your favorite class assignment?
Every assignment in my classes build on the previous one. The last assignment is always a culumnination of the work that students have done and it’s always the best. After final presentations in my innovation in the class in the spring, I was beaming for days. My Comm Lead students brought itand I continue to be impressed and inspired.
- What is one gadget or app you absolutely can’t live without?
I did a whole other interview about my technology use for an incredible blog called The Setup. You can read more about my technological setup than you ever cared to know here:http://benjamin.mako.hill.usesthis.com/
- Favorite place to de-stress in Seattle?
I love hot springs and hot tubs. My favorite place to destress getting myself into some hot water at Banya 5. Afterwards, maybe tea and a game of chess upstairs?
- Favorite comfort food?
I like gnarly messy, food with as much going on as possible. Okonomiyaki is one of my favorite foods to make at home: cabbage and pancake batter with tons of veggies, tofu, tempeh, yakisoba, held together with an egg and covered in nori, and brown sauce, and mayo. The more the better. Also… Paseo… Is it really closed?!
- Favorite spot on the UW campus?
The Grieg Garden is right next to the building, right in the center of campus, and nearly always empty. That always kinds of shocks me. Also, the coffee at Parnassus is better than what you can get elsewhere on campus and I’ve been happier since I’ve figured that out.
- What’s something few students know about you?
I was suspended from middle school for public displays of affection and insubordination. I’m proud of both.