Dave Riske
Computer Information Technology
Workforce, Career & Technical Education


Computing Technologies Professor Dave Riske is one of the longest-serving instructors at Western Nevada College.

He started as a part-time instructor in 1992 before becoming full time in 1996. After serving in the United States Air Force, Riske began his higher education journey at WNC, which was known as WNCC then.

Q: Give us a brief history of your background. How did you end up at WNC? 

RISKE: After separating from the United States Air Force, I was looking for a career. I was metrologist in the Air Force, though few people know what that is (my oldest daughter is a metrologist for the State of Nevada), which had a heavy electronics tech and a substantial IT component, but it was a time when there was a glut of EEs in the job market. I worked a number of jobs as electronics tech, quality tech, and had my AF IT background, but against EEs I couldn't compete. I came to WNCC to complete a degree and move on to UNR. I became a TA for the physics and CIS departments, then began teaching classes on Saturday mornings for CIS. I was asked to put together more classes dealing with PC repair and Computer Networking. Eventually, I was teaching 20-30 credits per semester in Computer Application classes as the state transitioned to computers. Eventually, WNCC created another CIS position, and I applied. I've held industry and teaching credentials from both Microsoft and Cisco and I have a Master’s of Science in Information Technology. 

Q: Why do you like teaching at WNC?

Dave Riske Helping a student on a laptop device

RISKE: Originally, it was building the new program into unexplored territory. Now, it's all about my students. My area of instruction covers a very wide number of topics, and the reality is there isn't an aspect of society that those topics don't intersect. Helping students find their fit in all of that is what keeps me going. I love helping students realize the opportunities that are open to them. 

Q: Was there a teacher or a class that inspired you to become an educator? Or something else?

RISKE: An event that got me interested in IT was watching a computer use a robotic hand to play the piano. I had a friend lose his arm below the elbow and they attached a claw. Seemed to me we could do better. 

People that influenced me: my mother gave me a love of learning and reading ... Dr. Harris at UNR, whom I overheard telling a classmate, "You're here to learn, I'm here to help you learn," a statement that I try to mimic in my educational philosophy ... and my high school English teacher Joanne Burnett, who taught me how to work with people without judgment. She always used to write on my papers, "I don't agree with what you said, but you said it well.” We had a stamp made for her that read "Burnie Says Bullshit," in Elvish, of course, so people wouldn't complain. I took great pride in getting papers stamped. 

Q: Why would students want to enroll in your classes?

RISKE: Opportunity. There is no other area of society with greater or more far-reaching opportunities for impact. I defy anybody to try and come up with a single job or career that is not impacted by computer technology. 

I don't try to teach my classes. I try to get my students in the frame of mind that they need to learn the material, so they have to invest themselves into the topic. 

Dave Riske Winning Innovator of the Year Award

Dave Riske was recognized during the 2018 EC-Council's Hacker Halted conference and awarded EC-Council's Academic Innovator of the Year for North America. In the photo, left to right, Jay Bavisi Founder of EC-Council, student Cody Williamson, Riske, and Instructor Mona Willden

Q: There are a number of compelling reasons to pursue teaching as a career. Can you talk about what might inspire college students to become teachers?

RISKE: I don't try to press my students into any one career choice I've had over the years. I've had several students start with me and realize that it really isn't what they want. Not the programing, not the building of computer networks, not the PC repair. But they realize that there's a very large component of what I'm teaching them that exists in an area that does interest them. So, then my goal is to get them into the best position for them to be able to maximize that aspect of it. I had one student who comes to mind, young gentleman. He came in, he worked with me for a semester and a half and realized this isn't what I want to do. I said, OK, well, what is it you want to do? And he says, “Honestly, I want to be out riding my dirt bike in the hills. It's like, OK, fine, so let's find a place for you.” So, I got him actually working with Dr. Kortemeier and we transitioned him, and he now works for the Department of Forestry, and actually his job does still involve IT in that. He places sensors for the Department of Forestry. So, he gets to ride his dirt bike to the top of the mountain to place sensors. So, there's always some aspect of IT that hits just about everybody.

Q: What is something unusual or unique that students don’t know about you?

RISKE:I love cooking and baking for my family. I bake sourdough bread, I smoke meats, cheese and nuts, and I make mead. 

My wife and I built our house, meaning we did the construction. 

I'm a huge fan of Robert A. Heinlein, particularly his juvenile series of books. They shaped a lot of who I am today. 

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