inspire students to transform their lives
her first four years here, assistant professor of civil
engineering Susan E. Burns has racked up a number of honors
from the National Science Foundation to a David A. Harrison
III Award for Undergraduate Advising. Now she can add one more
to her list: Alumni Board of Trustees Teaching Award. And all
this for teaching about dirt. Soil mechanics to be precise.
feel so fortunate to teach and research a subject I love so deeply,
Burns said. When students leave my class, I hope they have
an understanding of the dynamic nature of engineering and the
ability to enjoy analyzing and solving problems, as well as an
appreciation for the men and women who have worked to create our
from the consistently high ratings she receives from students
as well as peers, Burns contributions are well received.
One student wrote an ode to honor this best professor.
And James Smith, the Cavaliers Distinguished Teaching Professor,
noted that after watching several of her lectures and presentations,
he now employs her teaching model of concept, theory, and
change-up in his own courses.
reading a Teaching
Resource Center article that said the attention span of adult
listeners is about 20 minutes, Burns began breaking up her 75-minute
courses with a question of the day relevant to students
lives. The response has been amazing, she said. It
completely reawakens and re-energizes the students. It also makes
them more willing to ask questions or to stop me during a lecture
if something is unclear.
what makes her classroom different from the rest,
wrote student Martin Quinn. Often times we discussed current
events. Other times, Prof. Burns would solicit information from
It gave us a chance to rest our pencils and relax our
minds, and get to know Prof. Burns personally, and I am thankful
teaching philosophy Burns believes strongly in is accessibility.
of the classroom is as important as interaction in class,
she said. I can think of few things in life that are more
wonderful than the spark of understanding on students faces
after they have answered their own questions while talking with