By Heidi Toth
Meet Mike Taylor.
Graduate program: Master’s in computer science
Campus: Flagstaff Mountain
On graduation day, Mike Taylor will don his robes, put on a graduation cap and march into the Skydome to celebrate earning his degree from NAU.
It’s a familiar scene for the Cline Library employee and almost-three-time NAU graduate, who returned to school a few years ago for his master’s degree in computer science, building on his bachelor’s in mathematics and master’s in teaching mathematics.
Taylor spent the first part of his career teaching math, including for the Peace Corps in Africa (he taught math in French) and in the Dominican Republic, then started at the technology services unit at Cline Library in 2000.
“While I was teaching, I was always the go-to person when it came to technology,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed working with and learning about computers, coding, networking and all aspects of technology.”
He was hired at Cline to provide tech support and training, but as he took on more leadership responsibilities he found himself leading the systems and networks team, which includes writing code and building tools with software. Unable to go the self-teaching route any longer, he enrolled in the computer science program.
His thesis project was a two-year combination of his love of coding and education. Taylor, intrigued by the collections housed in Special Collections and Archives (SCA), created a program to find all the words that refer to places in the oral history transcripts, figures out the correct coordinates for each place and represents all those locations on a map for each oral history. It will help users find where stories in the oral histories are located.
Post-graduation, Taylor, who worked full-time throughout his second master’s degree, wants to see what his team can create to help the library. He also wants to take a break; there are no plans for degree No. 4, even though his time as an NAU student has been a positive experience.
“I really enjoyed interacting with my fellow students,” Taylor said. “I didn’t know how I would be accepted as someone who is a bit older than they are, but once I got over myself I realized they just saw me as another student. I was also initially fearful of group work—this wasn’t as common in the ‘80s and ‘90s as it is now. But it turned out to be a great experience, and I’ve learned a lot from other students.”