UT to offer graduate certificate in engineering education beginning fall 2017

Eunice Ali

Engineering graduate students transitioning into faculty positions can now breathe easily — teaching help is on its way.

This year, Maura Borrego, associate professor in mechanical engineering, launched a program designed to equip engineering doctoral students with practical teaching skills. Classes for the Graduate Certificate in Engineering Education program are already available for students, and certificates will be awarded beginning fall 2017.

To put together the program, Borrego said she worked with engineering faculty members and the interdisciplinary STEM education graduate studies committee, which consists of faculty members from education, engineering, natural sciences and geosciences.

Jill Marshall, member of STEM education committee and associate professor in curriculum and instruction, said courses on engineering teaching have long been offered through engineering and education departments separately, but “a coherent program” was never available until the launch of this certificate program.

According to Borrego, approximately 9 percent of graduating engineering doctoral students move directly into faculty positions, as listed in UT’s Graduate Student Information System. This means potentially there are 125 new engineering Ph.D. students interested in the program every year, according to Borrego.

“Every week, one student is going to have to run the class,” Borrego said. “They don’t just lecture about what everybody reads, but they’ll need to run more interactive activities such as group discussions, working on problems or trying to design something.”

Jeehyun Park, fourth-year biomedical engineering graduate student, said she is more prepared to teach after taking Borrego’s course on curriculum and assessment design in spring 2015. Park, an aspiring K-12 engineering curriculum developer, said she is eager to design her own lesson plans.

“I feel I have the tools and literature to apply some creative teaching techniques in my classes, even in my
outreach activities,” Park said.

Gerald Speitel, associate dean for academic affairs in engineering, said the program will impact graduate student preparation for academic careers.

“[The program] will provide our Ph.D. graduates who take University positions with a stronger foundation for launching their teaching careers,” Speitel said. “I’d also like to think that the program will make them more competitive in securing such positions.”

The program will not directly impact graduate student or faculty hiring, according to Speitel. Cockrell School of Engineering has a general policy of not hiring its own graduates right out of school, so current graduate students would have to get several years of teaching experience elsewhere before coming back to UT, according to Speitel.