Mechanical Engineering Professor and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Patrick V. Farrell is the 2001 recipient of the Benjamin Smith Reynolds Award for Excellence in Teaching Engineers. His peers say Farrell's visionary leadership, dedication and understanding of the relationship between teaching and learning are responsible for great improvements in faculty instruction and student learning in the college and beyond.
In 1993, Farrell was one of 14 faculty to participate in a research study conducted by then Industrial Engineering PhD student Katherine Sanders. The study helped faculty redesign their work as teachers by exploring the process of learning. Farrell and two others (Professors Mike Corradini and John Mitchell) saw great potential for improving teaching through Sanders' work. The team helped create a formal program in teaching improvement called Creating a Collaborative Learning Environment (CCLE). The provost expanded the program to serve the entire campus under its new title, Creating a Collaborative Academic Environment.
EPD 160, Introduction to Engineering was also an outgrowth of the Sanders PhD study. Farrell, together with five other faculty and Sanders, created the course to provide students with a real engineering design experience to help them decide on engineering as a career. The result has been a significantly higher retention rate in engineering, particularly among women. Farrell has been the coordinator of the course for the past four years. He recruits and trains new faculty, helps to organize the syllabus and find suitable class projects.
Farrell has put many of his ideas on teaching and learning into his own classroom. He stresses "active learning" so that students are engaged rather than passively taking notes, and provides students the opportunity to explore ideas on their own and present their findings in class.
In recognition of his devotion to improving teaching and learning, Farrell was elected to the Wisconsin Teaching Academy in 1996. Farrell is an active participant in the academy. He and seven others from across campus met every week for two years to develop guidelines for the possible ways colleagues could help each other improve and/or evaluate teaching. The resulting document is now used heavily at UW-Madison and other universities. Farrell was invited to present the results of this project at several meetings of the American Association of Higher Education.
Farrell earned his BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1976. He earned his MS in mechanical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley in 1978, and PhD from the University of Michigan in 1982. He joined the faculty at UW-Madison in 1982. He was promoted to associate professor in 1987 and full professor in 1993.