SOUTHFIELD, Michigan —The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) have named Andrew Gerhart of Lawrence Technological University the 2010 Michigan Professor of the Year.
He was selected from hundreds of top professors in the United States in the annual competition that is the only national program to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring.
CASE and the Carnegie Foundation have been partners in offering the U.S. Professors of the Year awards program since 1981. Two preliminary panels of judges selected 100 finalists in the competition for the national professor of the year awards in four categories. The top candidate from each state was selected as professor of the year for that state. This year, there are 38 state winners.
An associate professor in the A. Leon Linton Department of Mechanical Engineering, Gerhart has taught at Lawrence Tech since 2002. A remarkably active teacher and researcher, he has been nationally recognized for papers and presentations about improving the educational process, and has written undergraduate textbook problems and web-based tutorials for national publishers.
He holds three degrees, all in mechanical engineering, including a BS from the University of Evansville, an MS from the University of Wyoming, and PhD from the University of New Mexico.
He studied fluid dynamics for four years at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M.
Gerhart coordinates 12 courses in the College of Engineering and has developed eight new courses. He established a new minor in Aeronautical Engineering and two certificate programs in Energy and Environmental Management and Aeronautical Engineering. Thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and aeronautics are among the subjects he teaches.
He is the faculty advisor for the SAE Aero Design team that has twice finished in the top ten in the national competition sponsored by SAE International. He also chairs Lawrence Tech’s Leadership Curriculum and Implementation Committee.
Earlier this year, Gerhart received Lawrence Tech’s Henry B. and Barbara J. Horldt Excellence in Teaching Award. In June, he won the Engineering Society of Detroit Outstanding Council Leadership Award from the Young Engineers Council.
Matthew Greer, a former student now with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics who wrote to support Gerhart’s nomination, said, “Dr. Gerhart’s class was not about getting the correct answer, but rather, comprehending why you were using a certain formula or model to come to a conclusion. In industry, this is an invaluable skill to have already mastered, because one must be able to understand and apply the tools at hand to solve problems effectively and efficiently.
Gerhart has said that a professor should be approachable, personable, and accessible. He makes a point of speaking to students before, after, and between classes about things they are interested in, “even if way off the topic of school studies.”
“It is important to gain the trust of the student, because I set expectations high, but reachable. I have found that if students trust that the expectations are reachable, they will rise to the challenge that they are given,” he said.
He stresses the importance of giving students regular feedback on their progress, and urges professors to elicit feedback from students in order to improve future courses. Professors also should continually take advantage conferences, teaching seminars, and workshops that focus on improving student learning and incorporate new proven methods in their classroom presentation.
“It is not a professor’s job to just teach, but to facilitate student learning,” Gerhart said. “It is also imperative to be engaging. In all of my courses, I incorporate experiential learning and real-world experiences. This includes open-ended design projects where students work in teams to discover solutions to everyday issues. I also incorporate problem-based learning, which is team-based and student-driven.”
Gerhart served as advisor for a Detroit-to-Pittsburgh canoe expedition that commemorated the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian War. He helped students from a variety of disciplines learn about history, culture, ecology, logistical planning, teamwork, leadership, physical fitness, fund raising, and even engineering as they designed and built a modernized replica of an 18th century fur traders canoe. It won a national design award. After two years of planning, the students and advisors paddled for 56 days and 500 miles while giving 26 presentations and seminars along the route to the public and school children.
“It has been a thrill to see where the impact of that project has led those students today: obtaining advanced degrees, serving as industry leaders, and well-respected professionals,” he said.
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching was founded in 1905 by Andrew Carnegie “to do all things necessary to encourage, uphold and dignify the profession of teaching.” The foundation is the only advanced-study center for teachers in the world and the third-oldest foundation in the nation. Its nonprofit research activities are conducted by a small group of distinguished scholars.
CASE is the largest international association of education institutions, serving nearly 3,400 universities, colleges, schools, and related organizations in 59 countries. CASE is the leading resource for professional development, information, and standards in the fields of educational fundraising, communications, marketing and alumni relations.
TIAA-CREF, one of America’s leading financial services organizations and higher education’s premier retirement system, became the principal sponsor for the awards ceremony in 2000. Additional support for the program is received from a number of higher education associations, including Phi Beta Kappa which sponsors an evening congressional reception.
Lawrence Technological University, ltu.edu, offers more than 100 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree programs in the Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management. Founded in 1932, the 4,500-student, private university pioneered evening classes and today has a growing number of weekend and online programs. Lawrence Tech’s 102-acre campus is in Southfield, and programs are also offered in Detroit, Lansing, Petoskey and Traverse City. Lawrence Tech also offers programs with partner universities in Canada, Mexico, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.