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Dr. Phil Schmidt wins Chancellor's Teaching Award

AUSTIN, TEXAS—May 29, 2009

Phil Schmidt, winnner of the Chancellors Teaching Award, in his office in front of other teaching awards won over the course of his career.

Phil Schmidt, winnner of the Chancellors Teaching Award, in his office in front of other teaching awards won over the course of his career.

Professor Philip S. Schmidt, Department of Mechanical Engineering, received the Chancellor's Council Outstanding Teaching Award, which recognizes a senior faculty member for a distinguished career in teaching at the undergraduate level. This is one of the highest awards given at The University of Texas at Austin for teaching and there is only one recipient each year. Schmidt is the second ME professor to receive it. Mechanical Engineering Professor Leonardt F. Kreisle won it in 1987-88. The award is given to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding commitment and dedication to teaching excellence. A cross-college committee of five faculty members and two students reviewed materials submitted by the deans of each school and college to determine who would be selected for the award. The award provides for a $3,000 honorarium from the Chancellor's Council and a $2,500 honorarium from the President's Associates. Schmidt joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering as an assistant professor in 1970 and is the Donald J. Douglass Centennial Professor and University Distinguished Teaching Professor. The official award ceremony will be held in January 2010.

The following article is the department's official nomination letter. In the right column you'll find snippets from reference letters, and an article he wrote titled "Great Teaching in a Great University," (PDF 1.4MB) published in 1997 in Discovery: The University of Texas at Austin Magazine of Research and Scholarship. In this must-read article, he explains his teaching philosophy and gives young faculty members a blueprint to their own success as an educator.

Below under Educational Innovation, the concepts behind his learning program (PROCEED) are explained.


The Department Nomination Letter

Introduction

Dr. Philip S. Schmidt began his teaching career in 1968, after receiving his Ph.D. at Stanford University, as a Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellow (WWTF) at Prairie View A&M College. He was the first engineering Ph.D. in the United States to serve as a WWTF. He came to the University of Texas at Austin as an Assistant Professor in 1970. In his 38 years at The University of Texas at Austin, he has been recognized, both locally and nationally, as an exceptional teacher and mentor of students, an innovator in engineering education, and a leader in promoting educational opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities. Details of these contributions are summarized below.

Phil Schmidt discussing a heat transfer experiment with a student in the 1970s.

Phil Schmidt discussing a heat transfer experiment with a student in the 1970s.

Classroom teaching

Dr. Schmidt has taught every undergraduate course in the Thermal-Fluids program in ME, which includes a required core sequence of four theory courses and three lab courses. He regularly teaches ME326-Thermodynamics, the department's highest enrollment course (over 200 sophomore students per semester) and the senior-level capstone to the T-F sequence, ME343-Thermal-Fluid Systems. The latter course is consistently rated by graduating seniors as the most valuable course in the ME undergraduate program.He has also taught the required freshman introduction to ME course and numerous graduate courses.

In the 1990s Dr. Schmidt created and taught a Plan II honors course entitled "Technological Revolution and Social Change" and served on the Plan II Executive Committee for six years. In 2006, he organized a group of ME faculty to create a set of four new freshman Signature courses, primarily targeted at non-engineering majors, entitled "The Engineered World." The sequence presently includes : Energy, : Materials, : Systems, and : Products and Manufacturing. Each of these Signature courses is taught by award-winning faculty (including Mechanical Engineering Department Chair). Dr. Schmidt teaches : Energy in partnership with Assistant Professor Michael Webber. Mechanical Engineering Signature courses currently account for about 80% of the available Signature course offerings from the Cockrell School of Engineering.

Dr. Schmidt's course-instructor evaluations speak for themselves. He consistently receives very high ratings in all categories and student comments which highlight his enthusiasm for the subject matter, his interest in and availability to students, and his ability to elucidate difficult concepts.

In addition to numerous departmental and College-level awards, Dr. Schmidt has received virtually every University-wide teaching honor the University of Texas offers (except for the Chancellor's Council Award). These include selection as one of the 10 inaugural members of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers (1995), Blunk Memorial Professorship (1994), Piper Professorship (1994), Eyes of Texas Excellence Award (1997), Amoco Foundation Outstanding Teaching Award (1991), Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship Award (1991), and Ex-Students' Association The University of Texas at Austin Excellence Award (1989).

Dr. Schmidt has also received national recognition for teaching excellence. In 1992 he was awarded the Ralph Coats Roe Award from the American Society for Engineering Education (given annually to one mechanical engineering educator from the US and Canada), and in 1994 he was named by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education as Texas Professor of the Year (all disciplines, all colleges and universities in Texas).

Educational Innovation

Dr. Schmidt has, throughout his career, promoted innovation in engineering education, both within his own classroom and, through his organizational efforts, to his colleagues and the profession as a whole. His efforts have been especially notable in the creation of multimedia resources for thermodynamics instruction and in project-based learning across the curriculum. Between 1993-1999, Dr. Schmidt and colleagues J.R. Howell and O. A. Ezekoye received over $300,000 in grants from the National Science Foundation for development of video and web-based media for thermodynamics. The primary result of these projects is ThermoNet, an extensive web-based instructional resource which is used by engineering students throughout the world, and an accompanying textbook, "Thermodynamics: An Integrated Learning System," published by John Wiley. In executing these projects, Dr. Schmidt founded the College of Engineering Instructional Media Laboratory, the predecessor to today's Faculty Innovation Center, which has carried out dozens of award-winning multimedia projects for The University of Texas at Austin engineering and science faculty.

In 2000, Dr. Schmidt initiated a new department-wide initiative called PROCEED (an acronym for Project-Centered Engineering Education). He has been instrumental in raising approximately $1.25 million in donations from corporations to support this program. During the past eight years, PROCEED has funded major innovations in the ME undergraduate program, including redesign of 13 courses in the core curriculum to incorporate project-centered methods, renovation and equipping of nine undergraduate laboratories, and creation of a student portfolio system called Polaris for students to showcase their project work online. The PROCEED program has received international attention through Dr. Schmidt's own papers and presentations in journals and conferences of ASME and the American Society of Engineering Education, as well as 20+ publications by other participating UTME faculty.

Promotion of opportunities in engineering for women and underrepresented minorities

Dr. Schmidt has, from the outset of his teaching career, been a pioneer and continuous supporter of programs to enhance engineering education opportunities for women and minorities. As stated in the introduction, immediately after completing his Ph.D., he served for two years as a Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellow at Prairie View A&M, one of only three historically-Black institutions with an engineering program. Dr. Schmidt was the first Ph.D. in engineering to receive a Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship. Upon moving to The University of Texas at Austin, he founded the Equal Opportunity in Engineering Program to recruit and support, both financially and academically, underrepresented minorities in engineering. Dr. Schmidt served as EOE Chair for three years until the program had grown to a level where a full-time program manager was hired, then continued to serve on the College EOE Committee until 1984. During this time, he helped found and served as faculty advisor to Pi Sigma Pi, The University of Texas at Austin Minority Student Society, and facilitated the founding of The University of Texas at Austin chapters of the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers. In 2006, alumni of Pi Sigma Pi endowed a scholarship in Dr. Schmidt's honor.

Dr. Schmidt has also been an active member of the Cockrell School of Engineering Women in Engineering Program Committee and has worked extensively with the Society for Women Engineers in teaching of summer camp programs to interest female middle-school students in engineering. In recognition of these contributions, he was awarded the 2007 Women's Advocate Award by the Women in Engineering Program.


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