Texas A&M at Qatar recently hosted Teaching Week 2017, which highlighted the branch campus’ commitment to educating exemplary engineers through various talks, panels and showcases. The week’s activities were organized by the Center for Teaching and Learning, which aims to highlight and support teaching and learning excellence in engineering education in Qatar.
The keynote address, “From Creative Inquiry to Sustainable Impact,” was delivered by Dr. Khanjan Mehta, the vice provost at Lehigh University (USA), who spoke about the transformation he’s leading in engineering education at Lehigh. Mehta asked students in the audience, “How many of you are designing circuits and writing programs? Engineering is much more than that. What’s going to prepare you for a life of impact? Why work on something [like designing circuits] that creates no value?”
Mehta’s presentation outlined the necessity for progressive students and universities, together, to migrate away from familiar classroom experiences to real, meaningful, authentic projects such as building greenhouses in developing nations that aim for a quantifiable impact. “The ultimate goal is to produce students who are change agents,” Mehta said.
In the Humanitarian Engineering Panel discussion, students recapped their experiences spending a week at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands workshopping scenarios and solutions outside the traditional boundaries of their engineering disciplines. The students opened up about the impact the experience, which Texas A&M at Qatar has been participating in for the past three years, had on their mindset and career aspirations.
Rahaf AlSa’di said, “It was very eye opening to look at the different aspects that contribute to problems around the world.”
Ali Arshad also spoke about the personal impact of the experience. “It broadened my focus. It taught me a lot about what engineers think people need versus what people actually need. Going to this workshop made me see things differently. There are many ways to help people,” Arshad said.
The workshop enabled students to formulate proposals for complex humanitarian problems and understand the ethical, cultural and social issues in humanitarian work. Dr. Patrick Linke, one of the faculty advisers of the program, said, “We’re creating an environment in which our engineers are mixing with other disciplines and opening up their minds and thinking differently. Our students will actually be leaders, they will bring change to the world.”
Texas A&M at Qatar is committed to improving teaching and learning. In that regard, the branch campus has funded grants for faculty and staff to come up with ways to enhance student learning. Teaching Week 2017 also included an event in which this past year’s winners of transformative educational experience grants displayed their projects and the progress they’ve made on them.
Some of the winning projects this year include developing augmented and virtual reality tools to enhance students’ learning experiences and redesigning an organic chemistry course to focus on and convey engineering concepts.
Teaching Week 2017 concluded with Dr. LeeAnn “Mysti” Rudd’s talk, “Why I Teach.” Rudd is an instructional assistant professor of English and the most recent recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award College-level in Teaching from Texas A&M University’s Association of Former Students. She spoke about her background and experiences that shaped her into the teacher she is today and her life’s work convincing engineering students that writing matters. “My goal is for you to not be intimidated by any reading or writing situation you find yourself in,” Rudd said.
Rudd’s passion extends to striving to connect teaching and learning and “to serve as a change agent for the good of Texas A&M at Qatar.”