About this series: This is the second installment in a series of features celebrating the first graduating class of the JMU Department of Engineering. When JMU started the school four years ago, it set out to develop a program unlike any other. Through this series, you will see how the students and faculty have done just that, concentrating their efforts on teaching and learning the four pillars of sustainability that future engineers must embrace, not only to succeed in their profession, but to make meaningful contributions in the communities they choose to work in. The series will continue each week through May, when graduates of the JMU Department of Engineering take part in the spring commencement ceremony for the first time.
Striebig Sees Need For More, Better Undergraduate Engineering Education
The Shenandoah Valley is a beautiful place to live and much closer to his native Pennsylvania than Spokane, Wash., where he taught at Gonzaga University before joining the JMU Department of Engineering four years ago.
But it was the opportunity to teach in an engineering program committed to undergraduate education that clinched Dr. Brad Striebig's decision to come to Harrisonburg. Striebig, an associate professor of engineering, said the JMU program is well-positioned to address a pair of crucial needs: A dearth of public universities with engineering programs devoted to undergraduate education and a lack of strong engineering educators.
"If you look across the country, I would challenge you to find more than a half dozen public universities that would say they have a focus on undergraduate engineering education," said Striebig, who comes from a family of educators. "I can think of a couple. If somebody can think of more than six, I would be really interested in hearing who those other schools are."
Striebig also sees shortcomings in the teaching that takes place in undergraduate engineering programs. If you look at the vast numbers of engineers who come out with the undergraduate degrees, the people teaching them are not recognized for being good teachers, he said. "To me, this is a gaping hole in our undergraduate programs throughout the country and that has long-term consequences about what we're capable of as a country."
While there are places where undergraduate engineering education is strong, many of them are private and come with too high a price tag for too many students, Striebig said. That has opened the door for the JMU Department of Engineering to become a model of how to provide strong undergraduate engineering education at a public institution.
Striebig has been involved in engineering education since earning his doctorate in environmental engineering from Pennsylvania State University in 1996. At Gonzaga, he was an associate professor of civil engineering and founded and advised the Gonzaga Engineers Without Borders Chapter. He also developed and continues to direct the WATER (Water for Africa, Technology, Education and Reciprocity) Study Abroad Program, a program promoting education in sustainable development between JMU, Gonzaga University and the Songhai Center in Benin, West Africa. Striebig looks forward to returning to Benin in the future with another group of JMU students to work on projects that address water quality and health issues.
Because students learn in different ways, Striebig said he uses a variety of teaching styles. The one that seems most effective is hands-on, project-based learning. "I try to make as much of the class about actually doing things as possible," he said, "also keeping in mind the balance of trying to cover the material that will go through for accreditation or the FE (fundamentals of engineering) Exam that students need to learn."
Series At A Glance
- Part 1 - How Much Effect Can JMU Students Have On A Continent's Healthcare Future?
- Part 2 - Striebig Sees Need For More, Better Undergraduate Engineering Education
- Part 3 - Standardizing Solar Hydrogen Research Would Have Watershed Effect
- Part 4 - Hands-on Learning Philosophy Brought Holland Back to JMU
- Part 5 - Robot Being Designed to Fight Fires
- Part 6 - Model Railroad Put Nagel on Track to Become an Engineer
- Part 7 - Problem Solving Approach, Thinking Lured Pierrakos to Engineering Career
- Part 8 - Projects Impress Junior Who Will be Part of Second Graduating Class
- Part 9 - Passion for Technology Led Nagel Into Engineering
- Part 10 - No Time for Alarm: Contest Approaches for Robot Team
- Part 11 - Adaptability is Key to Health Clinic Design for Sub-Saharan Africa
- Part 12 - Quest to Design Cutting-Edge Device, Process Proves Challenging and Rewarding
- Part 13 - Electrical Engineering? One Class Changed DiMarino's Outlook
- Part 14 - Military Career Groomed Harper for Teaching
- Part 15 - Learning the Hard Way Can be the Best Way
- Part 16 - Africa Clinic Team Reflects on Milestones, Looks to the Future
- Part 17 - Solar Hydrogen Team Relishes Accomplishments, Variety of Experiences
- Part 18 - Nutbrown Reflects on Strengths of Fledgling Program
- Part 19 - 'Non-traditional Approach' Paved Way for Prins' Engineering Career
- Part 20 - Ogundipe's Vision for Engineers Molded by Niger Delta Experience
- Part 21 - Gipson Strives to Open Opportunities Into STEM Fields
- Part 22 - Love of Thermal Science Ignited Watson's Career Path