What motivated you to pursue an engineering vocation, and when did you know you were interested in that field? Were there professionals who encouraged you to attain that goal?
My dad was a foreman for my grandfather’s pool construction company (Burley Built Pools), and he and my uncle used to work on the construction blueprints together; I remember being fascinated by the drawings and wondering how they knew where to put things and create those detailed and complex drawings. I believe that started my interest in design. When I was in junior high (middle school), one day our toaster broke at home. Before my Mom went to get a new one, I had taken it apart, figured out what was wrong and fixed it. That was the first time I showed signs of mechanical curiosity and learning how things worked…I was starting to become an engineer before I knew what engineering was. By the time I was in high school, I enjoyed my mathematics and science courses the most. I excelled at chemistry, enjoyed physics, and couldn’t get enough of math. My counselor suggested engineering, and I looked into it. Mechanical Engineering sounded the most intriguing to me so that is what I pursued in college.
Tell us about your background and what motivated you to pursue your vocation as a faculty member at ERAU?
Becoming a professor at ERAU was never a goal before I started teaching here. I knew I enjoyed tutoring and explaining ideas and processes to people as I was a graduate assistant and enjoyed that part of the job. I, in fact, did look for a few teaching jobs before landing my project engineering position for an organization that, at the time, was owned by Westinghouse. This organization was responsible for the design, fabrication, installation maintenance and disposal of the nuclear power plants for our Navy’s submarines and aircraft carriers. This was an exciting job and truly a wonderful experience. The only problem was that it was located in up-state NY, and I was a native Floridian (actually, native Daytonian). This new weather and culture was so different to my husband and I that we never quite adapted to it. So when our son was born, we decided to move back to Florida to be near our families. Once we moved back here, I had an interview for an adjunct position for ERAU. I taught one section of Fluid Mechanics, and that was it; I was in love with teaching. Since then I have been promoted to Instructional Specialist, then Instructor, to Assistant Professor and now to Associate Professor and currently serve as the Program Coordinator for the Department of Engineering Fundamentals.
Why did ERAU develop a First Year Program for Engineers? What advice would you give to First Year Engineering students?
The College of Engineering at ERAU decided that a First Year Engineering Program would be essential to properly prepare students for their future engineering coursework. It was also driven by the desire to ensure as common as a first year curriculum as possible (common across all engineering degree programs), to allow students to transfer between degree programs without losing credits, or to afford them the chance to consider all of the programs offered here before settling on a decision by the end of their first year. The best advice I can give to first year engineering students is to practice and study all of their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses everyday. Whether they have assigned homework or not or whether they’ve finished their homework or not, they should rework problems, reread their chapters and practice (for short bursts of time) the subjects everyday. This is how one not only becomes proficient, but it increases their ability to recall the concepts at will.
What are the highlights of your career so far?
Creating enduring friendships and professional relationships with some of the amazing students who have walked through the doors of ERAU.
What advice would you give students about the importance of participating in clubs/organizations as part of their educational program…and are there specific ones you would encourage? Tell us about your involvement with some of the clubs for which you’ve been the faculty sponsor.
Becoming involved in your University’s co-curricular programs is essential to your success both as a student and as a professional. I always recommend that students should become involved (over an extended period of time) in at least one student chapter of a professional organization (for example, Society of Women Engineers or American Society of Mechanical Engineers) and one hands-on, design-oriented competitive organization (for example, The Women’s Baja SAE team here at ERAU). The professional affiliation is excellent for introducing students to members of the professional field and providing networking opportunities. Most memberships come with a journal subscription, giving students insight and cutting edge news into the professional field in which they are interested. The hands-on competitive clubs provide engineering students the chance to apply the theory they’ve learned to a full-cycle project. It often times requires that they learn beyond the introductory concepts covered in class and requires they practice their teamwork skills. It is in this environment that students truly learn what it means to be an active engineer as a part of an engineering team. They learn skills that simply cannot be taught in a traditional classroom setting but are best acquired through trial and error and through the struggle of doing it themselves.
You’ve won a number of teaching awards. Name some and is there one you are most proud of?
Oh man – this is one of those questions you really just love being asked, but are a little embarrassed to answer! The most meaningful awards are those that recognize what I enjoy the most – teaching. I have won several College of Engineering Faculty Member of the Year Awards, voted on and presented by the graduating class for that year. Truly, those awards mean the most to me as they came from the students themselves, the ones with whom I am in the classroom the most. I have also been awarded the Faculty-selected Outstanding Teaching Award. Of course, I am very proud to have been recognized by my peers for my teaching strategies and style, but the student awards are truly the best to receive.