UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Charles Ghilani, professor of engineering at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, and Alicia Grandey, associate professor of psychology in the College of the Liberal Arts, are recipients of the 2013 Milton S. Eisenhower Award for Distinguished Teaching.
The award recognizes excellence in teaching and student support among tenured faculty who have been employed full time for at least five years with undergraduate teaching as a major portion of their duties. Milton S. Eisenhower, brother of former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, served as president of Penn State from 1950 to 1956.
A Penn State Wilkes-Barre faculty member since 1989, Ghilani designed the bachelor’s degree in surveying engineering. He is the author of two of the leading textbooks in his field, with one adopted by 256 U.S. schools. To address varied learning styles, he often holds problem-solving group sessions in lower-level courses, and his Angel course-management website includes online books he wrote, practice exams, lesson notes, video lessons and links to external information sources. To help students who have trouble visualizing three-dimensional images by looking at two-dimensional drawings, he created 3D animations of difficult class topics for students to view and manipulate in Angel. For field surveying, he placed QR codes on equipment so students can use their smart phones to access short videos on equipment and software usage.
He also maintains an open-invitation Friday-morning breakfast at a local restaurant for his students with two rules: no talking about class, and the students pay the tip. “I often hear about their Thursday nights, upcoming weekends and other things related to their lives,” he said. “What I hear stays with me and gives me insight into their lives.”
One student nominator said, “I cannot imagine a more thorough, prepared or intelligent professor.” Another nominator wrote, “Assignments are always challenging, and although students consistently grumble about these assignments, the challenge forces every student to dig a bit deeper, try a bit harder and study a bit longer. In the end, students simply learn more.”
Grandey has taught “bookend” courses in psychology students’ college career: Introductory Psychology or a first-year seminar, and the 400-level Work Motivation or Senior Capstone on Emotional Intelligence. Across the courses, she said she follows three “deceptively simple” mantras, reminding herself to “show rather than tell,” “set the bar high” and “make it personal.”
One student nominator said, “As a teacher, Dr. Grandey constantly challenges her students to see past what is written in the textbook and apply results and findings to real-world issues.” Her mentoring of many students continues even after they graduate; “Alicia will be a lifelong mentor, partner and colleague,” a nominator said.
As the faculty adviser for the Psi Chi psychology honor society, “she has facilitated valuable opportunities for student learning and leadership,” according to one nominator, such as by coordinating an annual research exhibition for psychology students.