Three College of Engineering faculty members — Jacqueline Cole, Alexei Saveliev and Binil Starly — have been named recipients of the Outstanding Teacher Award for 2020-21.
Cole is an associate professor in the UNC / NC State Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME); Saveliev is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE); and Starly is the James T. Ryan Professor in the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE). The three professors were honored during the virtual spring faculty meeting.
The award recognizes excellence in teaching at all levels and is a prerequisite for being considered for the Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Alumni Distinguished Professor Award. Recipients become members of the Academy of Outstanding Teachers for as long as they are NC State faculty members. Recognition is given at commencement, the Celebration of Academic Excellence and the Teaching and Learning Symposium.
Cole joined the BME faculty in 2013, bringing with her an innovative approach to her courses in the areas of orthopedic biomechanics and bone mechanobiology. Her goal is to make sure her students are able to translate their knowledge of mathematical and scientific concepts into realistic solutions. In her classes, she is known for posing questions or problems and asking students to posit potential solutions, debating the merits and flaws of each.
Through teaching graduate and undergraduate courses and developing curricula for and participating in K-12 outreach efforts, Cole aims to motivate students by showing them how much she enjoys the subject matter.
“I always strive to project a high level of enthusiasm into what I teach so that students are inspired to learn for the sake of knowledge and not merely to pass an exam,” she said.
Feedback from Cole’s students describe a dedicated and passionate educator who is always there for her students and is invested in their success. One former student said that Cole has an open door for students who are struggling and works hard to ensure that opportunities for academic advancement are made available.
“She’s an educator with enthusiasm, engagement and patience, and continually improves by asking her students for their honest input,” one former student shared.
Saveliev’s goal as a teacher is to equip and empower a new generation of engineers for their future careers. Since joining the faculty of NC State and MAE in 2008, he has taught undergraduate classes in thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and heat transfer. His teaching method combines demonstration, engaged discussion with students and problem-solving.
Because his students come from varied backgrounds and experience levels, he believes his approach to teaching must be inclusive for him to be effective. “It is very satisfying to see someone rising in the class from one of the lowest grades on the first test to the perfect score on the final,” he said.
Saveliev’s students call him a thorough, caring teacher who puts in the time to make sure that his students are given every chance to learn and master the class material. One student said that when NC State transitioned to online learning in spring 2020 because of the pandemic, Saveliev became a champion of online learning. Along with offering online recordings of all of his lectures, Saveliev had what the student referred to as an “open Zoom” policy and would stay online until every student’s questions were answered.
“He offered so many opportunities for students to get help with the course content, while also being respectful of everyone’s time and situation during that difficult period,” the student said.
Since joining NC State and the ISE department in 2013, Starly has endeavored to teach critical and creative thinking skills through his courses on engineering statics, product development and digital manufacturing. Starly uses hybrid teaching models and is constantly trying to stay on top of educational techniques that will be more effective for a new generation of learners.
Starly creates short videos of his lecture material for students to watch before class, so that more of his class time can be dedicated to discussions and engaging students with group exercises. His goal is to equip students to transition from solving standard textbook type problems to developing the critical and creative thinking skills required to solve open-ended problems that define the engineering profession.
“In this information age, I strongly believe that students must be engaged in their critical and independent thinking skills, while teaching the students to learn by themselves while still preserving the fundamental essence of teacher‐student interaction,” he said.
The effectiveness of these methods is reflected in feedback from Starly’s students.
One student called Starly a gifted educator and exceptional mentor who knows how to engage students to reach learning outcomes.
“His teaching style is interactive, informative and effective in all aspects,” the student said. “He allows students to explore different facets of course material based on their interest while ensuring the required material is learned, which is rare to see in many college courses.”