At Feb. 11, 2016, event, College of Engineering Dean Ian Robertson honored eight individuals whose service to the college and to their profession goes above and beyond. Each of these people was nominated by—and chosen by a committee of—their peers.
Bollinger Academic Staff Distinguished Achievement Award. Established in 1989 by Engineering Dean John Bollinger, this award recognizes the outstanding contributions academic staff members make to the College of Engineering. These people work in key areas of the college, including operations, research and teaching. This award is made possible through a fund established in honor of Charlotte and Elroy Bollinger, who dedicated their lives to educational excellence and strongly believed in service.
Recipient: Eric Codner
Eric Codner is known within the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering as a selfless leader, an enthusiastic teacher and an experienced, go-to lab expert. As the undergraduate laboratory manager for the department, he maintains and updates lab equipment, using his skills as an analytical chemist to make informed improvements and develop new experiments for students. Says department chair Manos Mavrikakis: “He greets every problem as an opportunity and avoids nothing.”
Eric’s expertise extends far beyond the laboratory. He also teaches a number of courses, including Instrumental Techniques and Chemical Engineering Materials, an important senior-level course—and he receives high praise from his students, who laud the interest, expertise and the passion he brings to a classroom. In fact, Eric once designed a game of Jeopardy to help students in the Transport Phenomena Laboratory course study. His creative, innovative approaches in both the lab and the classroom show his dedication to the department, and his deep for the skills and principles underlying an education in engineering.
College of Engineering University Staff Distinguished Achievement Award. University staff members are crucial to the function of the college—they manage budgets, help run laboratories, interact with students, identify issues before they become problems and perform many other important functions too numerous to mention.
Recipient: Nancy Hansen
Nancy Hansen, who currently is an administrative staff member in the college academic affairs dean’s office, has amassed a wealth of knowledge about the College of Engineering during her 46 years of service to the college. Throughout that time, she has provided outstanding support to students and staff, applying far-ranging creativity to the administrative hurdles that anyone who comes to her must face on a daily basis. She has always offered assistance with a smile, bringing joy and patience to any situation. Hansen has been a guide for many students, paving the way for access to classes that work for their schedules, helping them navigate the registration process, and always providing the comfort of a piece of candy from the ever-full bowl on her desk. Her efficiency in the workplace is inspiring to her colleagues, who laud her grounded selflessness, warm nature and constant willingness to provide a helping hand. With her breadth of knowledge and experience combined with her welcoming disposition, Hansen provides an invaluable service to the College of Engineering.
Benjamin Smith Reynolds Award for Excellence in Teaching. This is one of the college’s oldest honors. Established in 1955, it is a symbol of Benjamin Smith Reynolds’ belief in the power of new ideas for industry development. This award is presented to the faculty member who contributes most to the instruction of engineering students.
Recipient: Randall Goldsmith
Chemistry Assistant Professor Randall Goldsmith brings to the classroom not only his deep knowledge of chemistry, but also a strong passion for learning. His high-energy, experiential teaching style has garnered strong praise from students in Physical Chemistry II and Honors Introductory Chemistry—both of which contain large numbers of engineering students. For years, his instructor ratings have significantly exceeded the chemistry department average; in 2014, his score was nearly perfect: a 4.92 out of 5. Although Randy’s courses are rigorous and demanding, students love them, says Robert McMahon, chemistry department chair. “I believe this is due to his native curiosity, his complete mastery of the material, his strong verbal gifts, his acute—and somewhat quirky—sense of humor, and his great enthusiasm for science,” says McMahon. Not only does Randy get to know his students’ names, he serves as a role model and mentor and is devoted not only to their learning within the classroom, but also to helping them achieve their greater goals. Emily Jewell, an engineering mechanics and astronautics student, says Randy is someone she wants to emulate. “He wants to encourage the scientists of tomorrow to love what they pursue, and to not be afraid of a challenge,” says Jewell.
Harvey Spangler Award for Technology Enhanced Instruction (two recipients). Alumnus Harvey Spangler recognized that technology can greatly enhance the learning experience for students, making it a crucial part of the instructor’s toolbox. The rapid growth of technology in teaching allows the opportunity to greatly enhance student learning.
Recipient: Katherine Morrow
UW-Madison has been a leader in innovative teaching in engineering. Two electrical and computer engineering courses—Introduction to Computer Engineering and Digital System Fundamentals—exemplify this constant and necessary adaptation of the classroom setting. Through a deep commitment to blended learning, Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate Professor Kati Morrow “flipped” these two courses—which are required for electrical engineering and computer sciences students—into technology-enhanced, active-learning formats. “ECE 252 and 352 are premier examples of what can be done when good pedagogy and effective technology are paired,” says Elizabeth Harris, assistant director for teaching and learning for the college. Not only do students’ grades reflect their increased understanding of the material, the students themselves rate the courses positively. “Professor Morrow’s understanding of how to convey information to students is unmatched by most professors at UW,” says electrical engineering undergraduate Jonathan Enz. “Students walk out of her classroom familiar with concepts they would never expect to fully understand after just one semester. Professor Morrow is the ideal instructor for this teaching award.”
Recipient: Darryl Thelen
Darryl Thelen, the Harvey D. Spangler professor in mechanical engineering, has been at the forefront of the use of computational and technological innovations in the classroom. His class sizes have increased, yet changing the format has reduced the number of instructors needed to teach the courses effectively.
He has modified the format in two courses—Biomechanics and Dynamic Systems—developing a course website, thorough online lectures and homework, and interactive in-class problem-solving sessions and hands-on labs. In Biomechanics, he also implemented novel laboratory activities by developing labs around low-cost consumer technologies—such as the Wii balance board and Microsoft Kinect—so that more students had access to the equipment.
The new format in both courses makes students’ learning more active; Darryl also can share the material easily with colleagues teaching similar courses. “Dr. Thelen used technology to supplement and enhance his high-quality traditional lectures, making them more accessible, intuitive and useful for studying,” says mechanical undergraduate Michael Mason. “I have gained an appreciation for the subject of dynamic systems, and I can attribute a lot of my interest to the additional learning that I accomplished by using these resources.”
Equity and Diversity Award (two recipients). This honor was established by the college to recognize the outstanding accomplishments and recent contributions of engineering faculty and staff to enhance equity and to create a more diverse and inclusive climate within the college.
Recipient: Kelly Burton
Since 1999, the Graduate Engineering Research Scholars, or GERS, program has existed in efforts to recruit, support and retain traditionally underrepresented students in the College of Engineering’s graduate programs. Its success—as well as the success of the students who have been part of GERS—is directly due to is director, Kelly Burton. Since its founding, nearly 70 GERS participants have earned master’s degrees and more than 60 have received PhDs. The engineering GERS also has inspired seven similar graduate programs across the UW-Madison campus. GERS alumni describe Kelly as a compassionate person whose dedication has made them feel much more at home on the engineering campus. She helps her students make connections, whether it be with faculty advisors, campus resources, employment opportunities, or each other. She maintains solid connections with GERS alumni, connecting them with current students to create mentorships and foster a larger GERS community. Within and beyond the College of Engineering, Kelly’s contributions have raised awareness and increased understanding of the importance of diversity in STEM fields.
Recipient: Dan Negrut
Diversity in engineering creates a web of dialogue and understanding—pushing engineers to expand their perspectives. Few understand this more than Dan Negrut, an associate professor of mechanical engineering who founded the “Promoting the Computational Science Initiative,” or ProCSI [pronounced PROXY], for short. ProCSI is a one-week residential summer program that teaches traditionally underrepresented 10th and 11th grade high school students various concepts in the computational sciences, exposing them to the applications of engineering. The students focus on actual simulation applications that engineers use to predict behaviors such as vehicle collisions or global warming, and Dan connects these technologies to the core math and science courses the students take in high school. The program also introduces participants to college life, motivating them through a higher understanding of STEM fields. Since its founding, more than 100 students from Wisconsin and Illinois have participated in the program. “Dan Negrut is a research superstar,” says Professor Jaal Ghandhi, mechanical engineering department chair. “His time is extremely valuable, and he could easily prioritize the use of his time for research-related activities. But he does not. Instead, Professor Negrut chooses to spend the time coordinating and finding external support for the ProSCI program because he feels that it is important to expose students from underrepresented groups to the wonders of advanced computing.”