Missouri State University
Keith Paschal

Keith Paschal

Scripting success in the classroom

Being a computer science student has made Keith Paschal a better instructor.

Always keep learning.

This is the mentality that motivated Keith Paschal to return to school to pursue his master's degree in computer science.

Originally from Klamath Falls, Oregon, Paschal now resides in Nixa. Missouri State's location was ideal for him and allowed him to attend in-person classes.

"I went to Missouri State, because I didn't want an online experience with my master's degree," Paschal said. "I wanted to actually go to a brick-and-mortar school. I wanted to interact with other human beings on a physical level."

Before coming to MSU, he received his bachelor's degree in computer information systems from St. Leo University.

Paschal began working in computer science for HP Software in 1998. The company became known as Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, which was sold to Micro Focus and more recently, was bought by OpenText.

One of the reasons he decided to earn his master's degree was due to the current business environment of his field.

"What a lot of high-tech companies are doing now is outsourcing support or R&D [research and development] stuff to lower-cost geographies. So, we're hiring a lot in Costa Rica or in India or in Romania or in Bulgaria. Other areas of the world where it's not quite so cost prohibitive to hire an engineer. So, in that case, it's very good to have something to fall back on," he said.

Paschal identifies computer science as a broad science that can be seen in almost any field, like physics, journalism and more.

"Computer science is everywhere...It touches just about every aspect of our lives today."

His job at OpenText allows him to integrate computer science with business.

For instance, Paschal works with a product that organizes data about the user's environment. The data is used in reports, which provide business executives with essential information to make decisions.

"As we move forward in technology, you look around your house, and it's like, 'Gee, I have an AI thermostat. I have Alexa and Google and that kind of stuff in my house. I have a computer network in my house. It would behoove me to know something about how any of this stuff works,'" he said.

Deploying knowledge as an educator

His work experience prepared him for another one of his passions: teaching.

As a per course faculty member at Missouri State, Paschal teaches two sections of CSC 130: The World of Computer Science.

"Teaching my first college classes has been an absolute blast," Paschal said. "Seeing young people have that 'ah-ha' moment - that's what I live for."

Paschal has had a desire to become a professor since he was a child, and teaching at Missouri State has fulfilled that life-long interest.

"I get to do my dream job while I'm getting my degree."

Lesson planning has taught him better study skills as a student too.

Recently, he prepared lessons for a training class about a high-performance database, and he recognized that he learned a lot in the process.

"You always learn whatever it is that you teach way better when you teach it," he said.

For Paschal, being a teacher is especially rewarding when he inspires others to develop or pursue an interest in computer science.

"I've had a couple of students that have come up and said, 'I always kind of shied away from computer science, because I thought it was hard, but you make it easy to understand.' And, you know, 'I think I'm even going to switch my major to computer science, because I really enjoy what we're doing,'" he said. "Being able to ignite a passion in students that I have in myself is phenomenal."

An algorithm to achieve his goals

By following his dreams, Paschal has also had to learn how to balance his personal, work and academic schedules.

"Having that time to make sure that it's not just teaching or taking the class or working that's getting my attention, but that I have downtime so that I can spend it with my wife, daughters or my son or the grandkids is key. It keeps me sane," he said.

Enjoying each aspect of his life, Paschal is taking his time to complete his degree.

"My hope has always been that at some point in time, I will have made enough money to retire from my 40-hour-a-week job. And then I can just pour my time into students and into learning," Paschal said.

His long-term goal, however, might include getting a doctoral degree, that is, as long as he can continue teaching computer science.

One thing about his future remains certain - the classroom is where he is meant to be.

"I want to always be learning," he said. "I want to always be helping lead others through the path of knowledge. I anticipate that I'll be teaching for quite some time."