What Dr. Anne-Marie Nickel, professor in the Physics and Chemistry Department, Dr. Cory Prust, associate professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, and Jeff Roznowski, lecturer in the Rader School of Business, want students to feel in their classes is connection. Connection to them, connection to the subject matter and connection to MSOE. “A handshake is how every student meets me. I stand by the door and make sure I connect with each and every one of my students,” said Roznowski, recipient of the Johnson Controls Award, an award that is presented to outstanding part-time faculty.
Recipient of the Falk Engineering Educator Award, Prust, knows what it is like to be an MSOE student. He graduated from MSOE in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. “There were several MSOE faculty members who had a huge impact on my life and they are the reason I am teaching here today.” Prust feels that going that extra mile to connect with the student is essential. “Caring for our students means getting to know them on a personal level and making an investment in them. It also means challenging the students, helping them achieve things they didn’t think were possible.”
Roznowski and Nickel agree. It is the personal connections made with students that drive their work every day. “Students at MSOE are focused and honest in their efforts to try,” said Nickel. “The key is to make the content engaging whether the students’ interest in the topic is high or just enough to get through the course.” Prust adds that it helps to ask himself, “Can I relate the topic to something they are passionate about?”
Nickel, recipient of the Oscar Werwath Distinguished Teacher Award, has loved chemistry for as long as she can remember, and she wants her students to feel excitement and enthusiasm for the subject as well. “I make sure the reasons I love the subject are apparent. Making Chemistry manageable, applicable and interesting are what I am after. I want to lead the thought process not dictate it.”
Delivering the material creatively is critical as well. Keeping students thinking and engaged doesn’t happen by simply standing in front of the room and lecturing every class. Bringing in outside industry speakers, taking industry tours, holding mock committee meetings and building with Legos are just some of the tactics Roznowski has used in his courses on telecommunications and engineering economy. “I want to create an environment that will help students succeed. If that means bringing pizza and Red Bull sometimes, I’ll do that too,” adds Roznowski with a smile.
The personal connections developed extend beyond the classroom for these three faculty members. They are willing to write letters of recommendation, provide career advice and even just sit around and chat. This is all done to ensure students have a positive experience at MSOE and into the future. It is the delicate balance between being both a challenging professor and a helpful mentor. “MSOE is a teaching university. Faculty members who exhibit these characteristics reflect what we are trying to achieve in and out of the classroom” said Dr. Steven Bialek, interim vice president of academics.
These are the faculty who students seek for guidance; regardless of whether these faculty members are willing to admit it, they are the standard others strive to achieve. Each of them are quick to point out that there are others like them on the MSOE campus. They are award-winning in every sense of the word.