Charles Hughes, Pegasus Professor of computer science, has been named the new interim director of the modeling and simulation degree programs. He will begin leading the master’s and doctoral degree programs, housed in UCF’s Institute for Simulation and Training, this fall.

Hughes is replacing R. Paul Wiegand, a research associate professor at the institute, who is leaving UCF in August for a faculty position at Winthrop University in South Carolina. 

Hughes is no stranger to IST. Having served on the committee that formed the institute in 1982, he is currently the co-director of the Synthetic Reality Lab at the institute, which consists of faculty researchers, affiliated faculty members, software developers, doctoral and undergraduate students, artists and digital puppeteers. His research is primarily associated with virtual learning environments including the TeachLivE project, which supports teacher practice in classroom management, pedagogy and content.

‘Mentoring is an honor and a pleasure and is, in fact, how one keeps learning.’

Mentoring students has been an important part of Hughes’ 52-year faculty career — 40 of those at UCF. He’s directed graduate and undergraduate programs at Penn State, Tennessee and UCF. He has advised 26 doctoral candidates and many undergraduates through to graduation and keeps in touch with many of them who are now working in academia, research institutes and industry. He also regularly mentors high school students who have gone on to graduate from universities including UCF, Harvard, Yale and soon Columbia.

“Mentoring is an honor and a pleasure and is, in fact, how one keeps learning,” says Hughes. “The key is to understand that effective mentoring is a two-way street, where roles regularly change so the learner becomes the teacher and the teacher becomes the learner.”

Hughes, who received his doctorate from Penn State in 1970, regularly publishes his research in the areas of virtual environments, human-centered computing, and the application of VR experiences to interpersonal-skills development. His experience and active work in the field keep him abreast of new developments, which benefit his students as well.

Hughes is co-founder and co-lead of the Learning Sciences cluster and a member of the Disability, Aging & Technology cluster. He is also co-lead of the Center for Research in Education Simulation Technology and has secondary appointments in Games and Interactive Media, Education and, of course, Modeling & Simulation.

“Dr. Hughes’ experience and passion for student success make him the ideal candidate to ensure the continued good work of these programs,” says Wes Naylor, the interim director of UCF’s School of Modeling, Simulation and Training. “His interdisciplinary work and connections will enrich the program.”