The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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CEE’s Arwade and Peterman Win 2020-2021 College of Engineering Outstanding Teaching Awards

Sanjay Arwade (left) and Kara Peterman (right)

Sanjay Arwade &
Kara Peterman

Professors Sanjay R. Arwade and Kara Peterman from Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) have been selected as the 2020-21 College of Engineering Outstanding Teaching Award winners. This prestigious award, sponsored by the college and the Center for Teaching and Learning, recognizes excellence in teaching as a UMass faculty member. The selections were made by a committee of faculty and staff representing all five departments in the college.

“Please join me in congratulating Professors Arwade and Peterman,” said Dean Sanjay Raman of the College of Engineering. “Their efforts are especially impressive given the challenges presented by COVID-19 over the past year.”

As Professor John Tobiason, head of the CEE department, explained in his nomination material, “Dr. Arwade is in his 15th year on the UMass faculty and is a member of the Structural Engineering and Mechanics Program within the CEE Department.”

Tobiason added that “Dr. Arwade has been, and continues to be, a critical contributor to the full academic mission of the CEE department, the College of Engineering, and UMass Amherst, and especially to our collective responsibility in teaching.”

Tobiason said that Arwade has taught many different courses, at all levels, and has developed new courses, including the unique General Education course, CEE 211 Perspectives on the Evolution of Structures, an outgrowth of his Lilly Fellowship Award. Arwade was also a UMass Student Centered Teaching and Learning Fellow.

“Students note the effectiveness of his teaching methods, his attention to student needs, both individually and as a class, and his commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said Tobiason.

Arwade’s pre-COVID Student Response to Instruction (SRTI) ratings have been consistently above department and college averages, according to Tobiason. A few years ago, he was also asked to reintroduce a now required sophomore level computer programming course in the CEE curriculum.

“For a faculty member,” Tobiason observed, “another measure of excellence in teaching is impact as a collaborator and mentor to other, usually much more junior, faculty colleagues. Dr. Arwade has demonstrated this role through service as a Lilly Fellow Mentor for Dr. Kara Peterman and by working with her in developing a new graduate course in Unified Structural Design.”

As one other faculty member shared, “Learning from Sanjay was a tremendous experience. He taught me how to structure everything about a course, going from the minute details of a single lecture to four-week units. He is a fabulous lecturer and master pedagogue.”

According to Tobiason, “In summary, I think that Professor Sanjay Arwade embodies all the attributes of an excellent university teacher, mentor, and colleague.

As Dean Raman said about Peterman's teaching philosophy, “Her teaching not only highlights why she chose engineering, but also her desire to bring laboratory and design studio experiences into the classroom, level the playing field for all students, and perhaps most notably, infuse joy.”

Tobiason quoted one especially revealing SRTI comment about Peterman. She was “one of the best professors I've had at UMass, showed genuine interest in the subject she teaches, and fostered the same interest in her students. [She was also] extremely well-prepared and well-spoken.”

As another student exclaimed, “Thank you, Dr. Peterman, for a great learning experience and being a very kind professor and caring for students! I really appreciate your excitement and your genuine love of what you are teaching!”

According to Tobiason, Peterman has developed creative and effective teaching techniques through important activities such as the ASCE EXCEED summer workshop, the UMass Lily Fellowship, the UMass Sustainability Fellowship, and in Mutual Mentoring activities. Peterman has also provided very effective mentoring to students on the Seismic Design Team.

Tobiason pointed out that Peterman has had a significant impact on creatively improving the undergraduate Strength of Materials Laboratory course for CEE students and an existing graduate level Advanced Steel Design course, as well as introducing a new graduate level course.

As Tobiason recalled, in the Spring of 2020 Peterman received the ASCE Student Chapter Teacher of the Year Award and the CEE Department Faculty Service Award. In addition, Peterman was presented the 2021 McGuire Award for Junior Researchers from the Structural Stability Research Council and the 2021 Terry Peshia Early Career Faculty Award from the American Institute for Steel Construction, demonstrating her accomplishments as a researcher and an educator.

“Dr. Peterman is making important contributions to the teaching mission of the CEE department, the College of Engineering, and the university,” concluded Tobiason. “In addition to strengthening her own teaching, she is sharing her increased knowledge of effective pedagogy with colleagues in CEE and in groups with wider membership.” (March 2021)