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McLaughlin and Kumpel Win College of Engineering Outstanding Teaching Award

McLaughlin and Kumpel

McLaughlin and Kumpel 

A committee of faculty and staff representing all five departments in the College of Engineering has selected David McLaughlin of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department and Emily Kumpel of the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) department as the 2021-22 College of Engineering Outstanding Teaching Award winners.

As ECE Department Head Christopher Hollot noted in nominating McLaughlin, he is already a proven teacher who has received the UMass Amherst Distinguished Teaching Award in 2016 and the American Society for Engineering Education Northeast Section’s Outstanding Teaching Award in 2019.

Beyond that, as Hollot said, McLaughlin “regularly volunteers to teach challenging courses and most recently volunteered to take on added teaching load when a vacancy unexpectedly arose.”

Since 2013, McLaughlin has also taught ECE 361 (Introduction to Electrical Engineering), which introduces electrical engineering principles in circuits, electronics, and embedded systems to more than 200 undergraduate mechanical, industrial, and biomedical engineering students. McLaughlin centers ECE 361 around a hands-on team project of building semi-autonomous robotic cars, which embodies electrical engineering principles while appealing to the students’ interests in engineered systems. 

As more evidence of McLaughlin’s dedicated teaching, he has developed and co-taught a course with Genny Beemyn, director of the Stonewall Center, in which students build LED light displays while discussing LGBTQ+ issues.

“McLaughlin felt he needed to learn more about these issues to be able to create a supportive environment in engineering,” as Hollot wrote. “In addition to this campus experience, McLaughlin and Beemyn shared their course experience in an invited talk: D.J. McLaughlin and G. Beemyn, ‘Queer Lights: Combining Technology, LGBTQA & Diversity Topics in an Accessible and Inclusive Learning Environment,’ presented at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Jan 9, 2020, New London, Connecticut.”

Most recently, McLaughlin taught electronics to a group of 27 BIPOC students in the new Digital Ready transition-to-college program that UMass Amherst is delivering at the Mt. Ida campus.

Kumpel recently completed her fifth year as a tenure-track assistant professor and is a member of the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering Program within the CEE department.

According to CEE Department Head John Tobiason, “Dr. Kumpel’s teaching philosophy, effectiveness, and creativity are clearly demonstrated by her teaching statement and by student evaluations and statements. She utilizes active learning techniques, relates new concepts to relevant current engineering context, embraces research within teaching, and demonstrates a high level of mutual respect and compassion.”

A teacher-evaluation statement by one of Kumpel’s students addressed her flexibility and expertise during the Spring 2020 mid-semester change from in-person to remote learning: “She shaped the class and adapted learning when we switched to remote learning and did it better than any other professor I had. I truly felt supported and could communicate easily.”

Another example of Kumpel’s commitment to engagement was her creation of a new senior/graduate-level course in CE-ENGIN 597D (Drinking Water, Sanitation, and Global Development).

As Tobiason wrote about this course, “It broadens and strengthens our curriculum, builds on her pre-UMass experience, directly relates to her research interests, and facilitates her highly effective teaching methods.”

Tobiason added that Kumpel also co-taught another new graduate-level course founded on service learning and active learning concepts.

Kumpel has also served as a faculty advisor to the UMass Engineers Without Borders Student Chapter, providing guidance to the student leaders and sharing her considerable experience in internationally based work on water and sanitation.

In addition, Tobiason noted that Kumpel has made effective use of the UMass Center for Teaching and Learning Mid-semester Assessment Program to understand student perspectives and make mid-course adjustments to improve student learning.

“In summary,” said Tobiason, “I think that Professor Emily Kumpel exemplifies the energy and skills of a dedicated, insightful, creative, and compassionate outstanding teacher, an excellent example for all faculty in the college.”

(March 2022)