Meet Dr. Michael Totaro, the graduate coordinator for the master’s in informatics program and associate professor in the School of Computing & Informatics. He’s been recognized for his commitment to the field and to his students. He’s now leading the state’s first master’s program in informatics at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Dr. Totaro’s career started in computer science. He worked as a programmer after graduating with his bachelor’s degree and loved it. But after a few years of working in software development, he wanted to learn more.
“I wanted to understand more about the business side of things, because, quite frankly, I was developing software for business solutions but I knew nothing about business,” he admitted. So he decided to earn his MBA—and that led him to informatics.
“That really broadened my perspective and expanded my interests to go beyond just the technology: to also recognize fully that, without the end user and end organization, pretty much what I’m doing is not going to be worth a whole lot,” he says. “That’s what informatics does: it loops back and it always includes—in a significant way—the end user and the organization. Early on in my career I recognized the importance of that, and realized it’s what I’m really passionate about.”
With his MBA, he started working in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s College of Business Administration in 1989 as the college’s IT director. The next year, a management professor asked if he would be willing to teach a computer-related course to undergraduates.
“That was my first taste of teaching and it really did whet my appetite,” he says. “I was like, ‘Wow, I could see myself doing this at some point in my career.’”
He became a full-time faculty member in 1996.
“When you see and work with students who are engaged, who seem to have a real interest in the topic, and especially when you observe the lightbulbs going off—that’s what I love,” he says. “It’s a sense of gratification because you think, ‘I’m doing a small part to help these individuals move forward in meeting their personal goals and their professional goals.’ I don’t see my contribution as major, but it’s something. I enjoy knowing that I played a small part in that.”
Dr. Totaro was awarded the UL Lafayette 2017 Ray P. Authement Excellence in Teaching Award for his contributions in the classroom.