on faculty since 2013
Ph.D., University of California, Davis, California, 2008
M.A., University of California, Berkeley, California, 1992
B.A., Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1985
Dr. Jeffrey Nyhoff has an uncommon double background in both computing and theatre. These interests at first may not seem to relate, and Nyhoff had questions of his own when he chose as an undergraduate to double major both in computer science and in communication arts with an emphasis in theatre.
“For many years I wondered why God had called me to such an unusual pairing of disciplines. However, I have found that this that it has enabled me to maintain a broader perspective on each discipline and to serve as a discursive and practical ‘interface,’ helping students and colleagues in computing to seek out conversation and collaboration with persons in the arts and humanities.”
For example, he discovered that the inventors of what became the graphical user interface for both Macintosh and Windows computers had explicitly and intentionally discussed and designed the user experience as a theatrical one. Unpacking, examining, and critiquing the sometimes problematic theatricalities of the users’ interface experiences became the basis of his doctoral dissertation and much of his subsequent scholarship.
More recently, he has been exploring a graphical programming environment called ‘Processing’ that was originally developed at MIT for digital artists but that Nyhoff finds works remarkably well as a way to teach the important skill of computer programming to high school and college students of all sorts. Digital media and game design are two other areas of interest in which he finds that the digital and the theatrical converge.
Nyhoff taught for several years at the University of California Berkeley, and while that time was short compared to the 19 years he spent teaching at Calvin College, he notes that because of that experience in a secular institution he became especially “aware of the holiness of physical presence, of bodily gathering together in Christ’s name for classes in an era that seems more and more to favor the virtual.”
When it comes to Christian education, Nyhoff appreciates the Calvin Seerveld suggestion that “a truly Christian college is a manifestation of Christ’s body, an academic communion of the saints, breaking down arguments and every obstacle raised up against the simple knowledge of God, bringing every thought away captive, subjected to Christ.”
The gap between computing and the arts and humanities gets smaller with the image of the cohesive parts of the body of Christ in mind. “I take an interdisciplinary approach to computing, because I believe that it is very much a liberal arts subject, one that can both pertain to and be enriched by just about any other subject on this campus,” he said.
“I have always found that we do our best work when we must work together in physically collaborative spaces, especially in interdisciplinary contexts when persons of potentially complementary abilities are working together. However, I am now finding this kind of face-to-face conversation and collaboration between departments seems to work exceptionally well at such a close-knit and Christ-centered college as Trinity.”
Even during classroom conversations on topics that are not specifically religious, Nyhoff said, “I find that there is nevertheless a sense of peace and blessing of the Holy Spirit that is present in our classroom gatherings. For me, this transforms instruction into a true experience of worship.”
Outside of the classroom, and before coming to Trinity, Nyhoff participated as an active member of his home church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, serving on the worship committee, participating in Bible study groups, and helping to stage dramas for the church, especially at Christmastime.
Professional Society Memberships
Association for Computer Machinery, Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education International Digital Media and Arts Association
“Processing: Teaching Computer Programming Through Interactive Animations and Games.”
Christian Educators Conference. South Bend, IN. October 2013.
“Computer Games as Theatre,” Journal of the International Digital Media and Arts Association, 2012.
“Computer Games as Theatre.” International Digital Media and Arts Association Conference. Miami, FL. November, 2012.
“Computer Programming Through Digital Animations.” International Digital Media and Arts Association Conference. Vancouver, BC. November, 2010.
“Technological Foundations of the Taxonomy of Virtual Performance.” Association for Theatre in Higher Education. Los Angeles, CA, August 2010.
“Performing the Interface,” Journal of the International Digital Media and Art Association, 2009.
“The Anatomy of the Computer,” Being Fluent Faithful in a Digital World. Online textbook, Calvin College, 2003.
Processing: An Introduction to Programming. With Larry Nyhoff. (In Progress.)
Processing & Java: An Introduction to Computing. With Serita Nelson, Larry Nyhoff, and Keith Vander Linden. Online Textbook. 2010.
Java: An Introduction to Programming. With Joel Adams and Larry Nyhoff. Prentice Hall, 2001.