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October 3, 2018

Working Together So Others Can Play

One of the great benefits of Adelphi’s small classes is that mentorship connections often form quickly. Many develop almost as soon as first-year students arrive on campus. But some can take shape even before that.

Mathematics and computer science professor Lee Stemkoski, Ph.D., met current senior Evan Leider about six years ago when Leider was a high school student attending Adelphi’s Summer Pre-College program. After Leider enrolled at Adelphi, he became a peer assistant for the pre-college program and a teaching assistant for Dr. Stemkoski’s Introduction to Video Game Programming course. The two worked together writing worksheets and handouts for the course, which they turned into a textbook and published in 2017.

It’s this kind of collaborative work with undergraduate students that makes teaching at Adelphi so rewarding for Dr. Stemkoski. A firm believer in learning by doing, he thrives in small classes, constantly reminding his students that “education is not a spectator sport.”

“I can get to know my students and their interests and goals, and tailor the lessons and assignments so that they are as interesting, applicable and useful to them as possible,” he said. “Understanding what I am doing in front of the classroom is only the first step; the next steps they have to take on their own. That’s why I like to give lots of small assignments frequently—so students can be sure they are learning the material.”

Dr. Stemkoski also helps students in his class design and create their own video games. “Every video game proposal is as unique as the student who creates it, and usually requires a significant amount of time and guidance to create the final product,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to mentor students in this way in a very large class.”

A video game designer himself, he certainly knows what it takes to create a good game. He developed the popular Koala’s Quest, a platform-style game that has been downloaded more than 250,000 times since it first appeared in the Google Play marketplace in the spring of 2014. He created it using Construct 2, a game editor that even nonprogrammers can use.

Construct 2 is the subject of the textbook Dr. Stemkoski wrote with Leider. Game Development with Construct 2 teaches students how to create 12 different kinds of games, and is one of the basic texts in the Video Game Programming course.

Leider, who majors in computer and management information systems and minors in computer science and video game design, appreciates Dr. Stemkoski’s hands-on teaching approach. “He shares his vast knowledge whenever he can, and gives students the maximum potential to create their own games and software,” he said.

Dr. Stemkoski enjoys constantly learning new things as a professor, as the world of technology continually expands and advances.

“The process of crafting and distilling that knowledge so that I can pass it along to my students is very rewarding,” he said. “I hope that my students are able to take their knowledge and pay it forward. Even if they can’t fix all the problems in the world, everyone has the potential to make the world into a better place than they found it.”

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Adelphi University, New York, is a highly awarded, nationally ranked, powerfully connected doctoral research university dedicated to transforming students’ lives through small classes with world-class faculty, hands-on learning and innovative ways to support academic and career success. Adelphi offers exceptional liberal arts and sciences programs and professional training, with particular strength in our Core Four—Arts and Humanities, STEM and Social Sciences, the Business and Education Professions, and Health and Wellness.

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