University's Faculty/Staff Awards honor three engineering professors

Three faculty from the College of Engineering were honored Monday for the highest levels of academic excellence, outstanding leadership and meritorious service at the University's 2009 Faculty/Staff Awards.

The honorees were among the 32 outstanding Penn State employees from across the University honored at a noon ceremony at the Nittany Lion Inn.

Richard Schuhmann, assistant professor of engineering and director of the Engineering Leadership Development Program, was a co-recipient of the W. LaMarr Kopp International Achievement Award for faculty.

Established in 1955, the award recognizes faculty and staff members who have contributed significantly to the advancement of the international mission of the University. It is named for the late deputy vice president for international programs.

Schuhmann's teaching and research activities have formed sustainable relationships between students and faculty overseas and in the United States and have created programs that engage Penn State faculty and students with people in developing communities around the world. His engineering leadership development students work with Hungarian economics students on socially relevant projects in the developing world, and this semester are working with communities in Peru, Jamaica and Morocco.

His students are exposed to global cultures through projects such as building a schoolhouse in Cambodia and drilling a well in a small village in Morocco. Each spring break, he hosts a one-week water resources workshop, attended by his students and their Moroccan counterparts, at the Ecole Mohammadia d'Ingénieurs, the premier engineering university in Rabat, Morocco. The course exposes the students to a critical resource challenge and helps to break down the walls of misunderstanding that can exist between people in the United States and the Arab world.

Schuhmann holds a doctoral degree in environmental engineering from Penn State, a master's degree in environmental engineering from the University of Houston and a bachelor's degree from the University of New Hampshire.

Ivan Esparragoza, associate professor of engineering at Penn State Brandywine, was one of three University faculty members honored with the Alumni/Student Award for Excellence in Teaching and named 2009 Penn State Teaching Fellows.

The Penn State Alumni Association, in conjunction with undergraduate and graduate governing bodies, established the award in 1988. It honors distinguished teaching and provides encouragement and incentive for excellence in teaching. Recipients are expected to share their talents and expertise with others throughout the University system during the year following the award presentation.

Esparragoza, who oversees the majority of engineering students at Penn State Brandywine, is cited for incorporating inquiry-based research experiences into his introductory-level courses and providing a global/international collaborative experience for his students. Under his direction, engineering students from the campus have connected with students at eleven universities in seven different countries in Latin America on a global design project.

A member of the campus faculty since 2001, Esparragoza is a recipient of the Brandywine Advising and Mentoring Award presented annually "for efforts in helping others to achieve their potential." He also serves as an academic adviser to the campus Engineering Club, which earned the opportunity to represent Penn State at the National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest in spring 2008.

"While Professor Exparragoza is always working to improve his classroom presentations," one nominator wrote, "he also is extremely imaginative in developing out-of-class experiences that will reinforce in-class experiences, assist retention and encourage underprepared students to persevere."

Themis Matsoukas, professor of chemical engineering, was among four University faculty members to receive the 2009 George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching. The award, named after Penn State?s seventh president, honors excellence in teaching at the undergraduate level.

Matsoukas believes a good teacher "is an enabler who removes all obstacles to learning, so that students are limited only by their own efforts. Only then can the teacher demand and expect the highest standards and challenge students to push their own limits."

A member of the chemical engineering faculty since 1991, he teaches graduate and undergraduate thermodynamics and courses on material balances and air pollution engineering. He also serves as the department's undergraduate program coordinator and faculty mentor to first-year students from underrepresented groups, and research adviser to first-year women engineering students.

"Throughout my Penn State career, I have not encountered another instructor who can match the gift for teaching of Professor Matsoukas," a former student wrote.

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Last Updated March 24, 2009