Faculty Spotlight: Not Your Typical Nerd
Published on July 24, 2013 by Tiffany Coleman
(MERIDIAN) What is the first image you get when you envision someone who thrives on computers and technology? Eyeglasses with tape? Pocket protector? High water pants? Although mom always said not to judge, you have got to admit you can often spot a computer nerd in a crowd. Or can you? For instance, take the information technology program chair at the Broadview University-Boise campus. At first glance, Tim Thorson is not your typical nerd. Or is he?
There is quite a bit more to this guy than meets the eye. On the outside, Thorson is a khaki pants and polo-type shirt wearing, soda cup-carrying kind of guy. But when he opens his mouth to talk tech—look out! Holy motherboards and information security systems. Computer speak takes on a life of its own. Pretty soon, the conversation will turn into an historical perspective of some military strategy. Somewhere between the Battle of Gettysburg and the beaches of Normandy, someone will call his name—looking for tech support. True to his inner Marine, he always answers when duty calls.
“Growing up, I wanted to be a school bus driver because they are important people,” Thorson said. “I thought getting kids to school was a noble goal. But shortly after I stood up in church and said that is what I wanted to do, I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore. I was more interested in history and law. But somewhere along the way, I got sidetracked by the Marine Corps.”
Sidetracked? Thorson came to Broadview University with more than a few decades of military experience. The lieutenant colonel retired in 1998 after 22 years as a command and control officer. Command and control is responsible for computers, communications and networks. It encompasses all military tactics that use communications technology. In other words: information technology. His interest in the field was a complete surprise. His career took on a life of its own after he kept getting better and better assignments and promotions.
“Everyone uses technology and IT these days,” Thorson said. “IT brings order to chaos, and it is interesting to watch it all come together. I use my military training all of the time.”
Thorson has headed up the campus’s IT program for nearly a year. He teaches students how to use technology to create what businesses need.
“People don’t often understand this, but there is a big difference between computer science and IT,” he said. “Computer science encompasses building and inventing things like computers and hardware. Information technology takes those inventions and creates business solutions which then become revenue generating.”
This is Thorson’s first formal teaching job. His favorite thing is witnessing students during their “Aha” moments.
“It’s that moment when students understand a key concept, like how Private Key Infrastructure causes encrypted online transactions to take place, and suddenly the knowledge of e-commerce is clear,” he said, “or when the knowledge of how hyperlinking works on websites. Another is when [they get] the knowledge of how relational databases revolutionized data and unleashed the technologies that allow NSA to use triggers to pull key conversations out of all our cellular activities, etc.”
From “Aha” to uh-oh, here we go again. The techie has returned. It begs the question: Is he your typical nerd or not? Perhaps he is just a well-rounded guy with a lot going on in his head. It’s a tough call, but one thing is certain. Although he traveled a long and varied path to get here, he’s not very far away from his childhood goal of being a bus driver. Instead of being the person who gets kids to school, he is now the one who teaches them once they get here.