UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — David Aurentz, associate professor of chemistry at Penn State Berks; Frederick Haag, associate professor of visual arts at Penn State York; and Mark Maughmer, professor of aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering, have received the Alumni/Student Award for Excellence in Teaching and have been named 2012 Penn State Teaching Fellows.
The Penn State Alumni Association, in conjunction with undergraduate and graduate governing bodies, established the award in 1985. It honors distinguished teaching and provides encouragement and incentive for excellence in teaching. Recipients are expected to share their talents and expertise with others throughout the University system during the year following the award presentation.
Aurentz began teaching as a chemistry teaching assistant while earning his graduate degree from Penn State. “Later, during a career as an industrial scientist,” he said, “I always held on to the idea that I would teach again in a more formal setting.” In 2005, he returned to the University as an assistant professor of chemistry. One nominator said, “As an industrial scientist who moved into academia, Dave could have adopted a transmission pedagogy, spending most class time telling students about chemistry. Instead, Dave seemed to know instinctually that the best way to help students learn is by engaging them with the subject.”
Explaining his teaching philosophy, Aurentz said, “Setting a high bar for critical thinking is important not only within the context of a specific course, but also as a lifelong skill. I encourage students to think outside the typical structure of course material and answer questions by integrating their own experiences with ideas they encounter in class.”
Outside of the classroom, he advises life science and biology majors, mentors undergraduate teaching assistants, and conducts research in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
Haag, who has been teaching visual arts at Penn State York since 1987, said he strives to have students “apply their knowledge so that they comprehend different art forms rather than simply memorize their respective characteristics.” He augments traditional media with design software in the computer lab and has students design logos, ads and other materials for local community organizations. He also encourages his students to create blogs as showcases for their work and to provide a place for ongoing artistic reflection.
In 2010, Haag participated in the semester-long Course in College Teaching and then shared his knowledge with fellow faculty members through a panel discussion. “On our campus,” one nominator said, “Fred has been one of the most faithful participants in workshops and courses related to teaching and learning. From blended learning to student engagement to action research to blogging, his stance is one of continual improvement through the implementation of effective innovation.”
He has received the James H. Burness Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Penn State York Advising Award.
After joining the University faculty in 1984, Maughmer developed the Flight Vehicle Design and Fabrication course, which immerses undergraduate students in the multidisciplinary field of aerospace engineering and includes the fabrication and testing of full-scale components. Ideally, participating students are enrolled in the course for all eight semesters of their undergraduate program. “Students in this course are highly sought after by employers,” one nominator said. “This course has deservedly garnered national attention for Professor Maughmer and Penn State.”
Student nominators cite his “raw passion for the subject,” his “energy and enthusiasm” and his “sincere desire to pass on his knowledge of aerospace engineering.” Maughmer said he thinks that some of the most important lessons “do not come through carefully prepared lectures, but through the spontaneity of the classroom.” He said that, “through enthusiasm and love of subject matter, one can help students to realize that without knowing enough to build a solid foundation, there is no way to fully appreciate and enjoy the discipline.”
He has received the Penn State Engineering Society’s Outstanding Teaching Award and its Premier Teaching Award. The American Society of Engineering Education honored him with its Fred Merryfield Engineering Educator Design Award in 2009.