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Teaching Philosophy

Preparing future civil and environmental engineers for a successful career in a global marketplace is one of the primary goals within a department. In a creative world that is constantly changing, teaching has to adapt too. My own teaching record shows that I value teaching as an engaging, creative, inclusive, and iterative enterprise.

I use active learning methods to engage students during the class session. Because engineering is a problem-solving field, students are more able to meet the learning objectives of a class when the class is working towards solving a larger design-based problem. To this end, grades in my classes are typically formed based on a combination of projects and exams, while homework is an iterative process that builds towards a larger goal. For example, in a Water and Wastewater Treatment Design course I designed, each homework is formatted as a technical memo. These memos will be amended by student teams based on feedback and combined at the end of the semester to form a final Design Report, which is the basis of an end-of-semester presentation to a panel of design engineers.

Civil engineering is, at its heart, a creative field; I aim to spark students’ creativity through design-based problems as well as through providing an opportunity for creative extra credit. This allows students to engage with the material and reflect on their experience in the class in a way that they typically do not. Incorporating problem-based learning and creative assignments creates a strong and cohesive course that students remember because they can see how all the pieces fit together.

I affirm students’ diversity in experience and learning style and incorporate inclusive pedagogy to accommodate students with dis/abilities. Furthermore, I recognize that systemic inequalities can affect students’ abilities to excel (e.g., socioeconomic background, language, high school preparation). I use resources (course packs, readings, software) in my class that are accessible to students at no/low cost as well as to work with students who may be disadvantaged by these inequalities to build a foundation from which they can excel.

I rely on teaching evaluations from past semesters as well as academic research in engineering education to iteratively improve course assignments and structure. However, because each semester is different, I address the individual needs of my students by making myself available to them. I aim to meet with all of my students one-on-one within the first two weeks of the semester in order to understand their background, learning needs, and expectations for the class. I also ask them to submit a one-page biography and provide them with a one-page biography of myself. These evaluations, meetings, and assignments allow me to create a course that is personalized to the class that I have in any specific semester both during the course and between iterations.

To conclude, I am dedicated to incorporating pedagogical strategies into my classes that teach students the fundamentals of civil engineering and enable them to apply this knowledge to problems at both local and global levels. I make myself available to students and work with them to be successful.

Teaching Artifacts
Water and Wastewater Treatment Design

How has water and wastewater treatment advanced human life? What happens to our water after we flush it? Is the idea of “toilet to tap” really safe? Can we use treated water to recharge our groundwater resources? 

The Town of Blacksburg is preparing for an expected population increase and wants to ensure that its water and wastewater treatment plants can handle an expected daily flow and load increase. You will act as design engineers to determine whether plant improvements are needed at each process stage and, if improvements are needed, to determine the sizing and placement of those improvements.  What information do you need to approach this problem? How will your team interact and communicate with the client? How will your team present the designs in an effective way to the town decision makers? How will your team ensure that the design will uphold public health and well-being in the community?

These are all very important engineering questions that hinge around the design of water and wastewater treatment facilities.  Following successful completion of this course you will be equipped with the knowledge and skills required to respond to these questions.

Sample Syllabus for Water and Wastewater Treatment Design