Winners of 2019 Excellence in Teaching Awards

Peter Kilpatrick, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, is very pleased to announce the following recipients of this year’s faculty teaching awards:

John W. Rowe Excellence in Teaching Award: Professor Michael Young

Michael Young, professor and chair of the department of psychology, joined the Illinois Tech faculty in 1996 as a professor in the clinical psychology program. Over two terms, for a total of 15 years, he served as the director of clinical training for the doctoral program before taking on the duties of department chair three years ago. Through designing this program’s curriculum and delivery for many years, Young has effectively taught nearly all doctoral students who have graduated from our program.

Young sets high standards for his students, but is supportive of them accomplishing their goals. He is patient and treats his students with respect. He has a good sense of humor, which the students appreciate, and knows how to use it as a way to alleviate student stress. Young is known for his knowledge of methodology and statistics, and has become the resident expert when it comes to sophisticated analyses—not only for his students, but also for all students in the program.

In the classroom, he uses a guided discovery approach, in which he first imparts new information based on his expertise and experience, and then guides the students to deepen their knowledge of the topic through questioning and discussion. He also challenges them to think about a topic more deeply while tailoring the material and discussion to their stage of the learning process.

For his influence as a training director, instructor, and mentor, Young is recognized as an outstanding contributor to the psychology program.

Bauer Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award: Senior Lecturer Promila Dhar

Promila Dhar joined the biomedical engineering department at Illinois Tech as a researcher and teaching lab coordinator in 2005, was appointed as adjunct faculty in 2010, and was named a senior lecturer in 2013. She has devoted significant effort to revamping and developing new modules for biomedical engineering undergraduate laboratory courses (Instrumentation and Measurement Laboratory [BME 315] and Biofluids Laboratory [BME 320]). The breadth of undergraduate courses she has developed and delivered truly attests to her vast knowledge of engineering and laboratory instrumentation principles. Dhar’s passion for educating the next generation of biomedical engineering professionals goes above and beyond classroom instruction, as she has contributed to significant educational initiatives in Armour College of Engineering. These include the Armour R&D Summer Immersion program, for which she has led undergraduate research projects in addition to hosting pre-engineering summer camps for high school students at the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Campus.

Dhar has received strong teaching evaluations from undergraduates at all levels. Her courses are regarded as challenging and rigorous with high expectations of student performance, yet she is considered a professor “that genuinely cares about student success,” and students regard her “passion for teaching [as] very motivational.” Students recognize the importance of this impact on their education as evidenced by the following comments: “She provides both guidance and critical feedback,” “She always pushes us forward and keeps us moving to a higher level,” and “She has provided a solid foundation of my academic career and greatly shaped my career path.” Dhar has guided them in preparation of undergraduate coursework while providing critical insight on strategies to improve student mastery of challenging fundamental concepts based on her prior experience. Through co-teaching experiences, her junior faculty colleagues have attested to her “laser-sharp focus on ensuring student learning success,” and comment that “her advice and guidance to teaching has helped [them] become an improved teacher at Illinois Tech.”

Board of Trustees Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award: Associate Professor Hemanshu Kaul

Hemanshu Kaul excels at a research-focused institution such as Illinois Tech because it is crucial to have professors who perform well, not only as classroom teachers but also as patient mentors to student researchers. Kaul, an associate professor of applied mathematics, excels in both arenas. He receives consistently strong evaluations from students who take his classes. Many students were moved to write long, detailed, and glowing letters of support for him. These letters are nearly unanimous in saying he is very caring and that he sets very high standards. As one student said, “If all teachers, professors, and lecturers taught mathematics as well as [Associate Professor] Kaul, the world would have many more mathematicians.” He is an undergraduate research advising machine—creating good projects for undergraduates and making sure the students are successful—and he has advised more graduate students in discrete mathematics than anyone else. Kaul supervises students for the mathematical modeling contest and he co-advises the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics club, helping develop a new lecture series called My Favorite Theorem as an introduction to the beautiful and exciting world of mathematics. We can think of no one more deserving, and welcome this opportunity to spotlight his exceptional contributions.

Board of Trustees Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award: Professor Geoffrey Williamson

Geoffrey Williamson, Duchossois Leadership Professor, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and associate dean of analytics for Armour College of Engineering, has been teaching for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering for approximately 30 years, during which he has made monumental contributions to raising the quality of education at Illinois Tech. In addition to his responsibilities as an associate dean, Williamson has held a variety of administrative and leadership roles at the university and departmental levels, including associate dean for academic affairs in the Graduate College and director of the electrical and computer engineering department’s graduate program; and has served as chair of the electrical and computer engineering Undergraduate Curriculum Committee for the past four years. His passion and dedication to teaching is reflected by this ongoing commitment to continuous improvement of engineering education through his recent initiative to overhaul the undergraduate electrical and computer engineering program. Over the past two years he has led efforts to revise the undergraduate program’s curricula by including career electives that will provide students greater flexibility and exposure to interdisciplinary study across their major (e.g., policy and ethics in STEM, game studies and design), as well as depth within specific electrical and computer engineering tracks (e.g., imaging and control in biomedical systems). These programs are now in the final phases of implementation.

Since joining Illinois Tech, Williamson has taught 16 distinct electrical and computer engineering courses, five of which were new courses he developed, and has taught four distinctive courses over the last three years. Of note, he developed the undergraduate Introduction to the Profession courses (ECE 100 and ECE 101) when these were first introduced to the Illinois Tech curricula. The ECE 100 course complemented lectures for all ITP students across the university, and introduced computer usage in engineering, engineering problem solving, and an introduction to the scope of electrical engineering. Williamson is highly respected and regarded by students because his teaching style encourages class participation while engaging them to be active contributors. As reflected in his teaching statement, his goal is that by the completion of a course, the students will have their personal way of understanding content through “collective discussion and joint investigations … to help each other and enrich our understanding.”

Michael J. Graff Teaching and Advising Innovation Award: Senior Lecturer Alan Glodowski

Alan Glodowski, senior lecturer in physics, has taught at Illinois Tech for the last 15 years. Over that time he has worked tirelessly to improve physics education in the department’s introductory service classes. He has mentored other professors in the use of an innovative flipped classroom approach and interactive response systems, and had a role in influencing the design of the newly constructed, flexible twenty-first century lecture rooms in the Robert A. Pritzker Science Center. The changes for which Glodowski has advocated have significantly improved student outcomes and satisfaction. Due to his efforts, improvement is quantitatively assessed over the semester, and the data has been used to provide feedback to all instructors. In addition, he has served as the advisor for all physics majors during their first two years. Glodowski’s “Ten Commandments,” or guidelines for success, for first-year advisees is notorious, and provides practical information that students use to succeed academically, emotionally, and socially.

College/School Excellence in Teaching Award Winners

This year several colleges and schools chose a teaching award winner who was subsequently considered for the university’s Excellence in Teaching Award. Congratulations to the following faculty college/school winners for their excellence in teaching:

  • College of Science—Bryce Littlejohn
  • College of Architecture—Susan Conger-Austin
  • Stuart School of Business—Joanne Howard
  • Chicago-Kent College of Law—Alexander Boni-Saenz

Faculty members who served on the committee to review the nominations for the university awards are Xiaofan Li, Elisabeth Hildt, and David Arditi. The Michael J. Graff, University, and Bauer awards recipients received a monetary award; all Excellence in Teaching award winners received plaques acknowledging their achievement at the Faculty Recognition and Awards Reception on April 10.