This year’s College of Engineering Outstanding Staff and Teaching Award winners were announced Friday, Aug. 19, representing some of the best work in the last year by the College’s support staff and faculty.

The awards were presented by Dean Richard B. Brown during the annual fall faculty meeting, held in the Rio Tinto Kennecott Mechanical Engineering Building.

Outstanding Staff Award — Joy Velarde, undergraduate advisor, Mechanical Engineering

Joy-Verlade175x250For some new students, college can start out as a rough-and-tumble journey, and they need a strong advocate to help guide them to academic success. Joy Velarde in the Department of Mechanical Engineering has proven she is the right person to come to for direction and support.

As a member of the department’s Undergraduate Student Advisory Committee, Joy co-created a new peer-mentoring program that resulted in more than 30 mentors, helping some 300 students in their studies. She also developed a tutoring program for undergraduates that utilized mechanical engineering tutors exclusively and has proven to be a great success for the department and its students.

Joy is a prime example that an effective and caring advisor can help bring about life-affirming changes to students yearning for guidance. We’re proud of her work, her dedication and her unwavering desire to see our students prosper.

Outstanding Service Award — David E. Johnson, School of Computing

David-Johnson175x250There’s more to computing than just algorithms and problem-solving. It’s also about having fun. No one knows more about that than David Johnson, the tireless organizer behind the successful GREAT Summer Camps.

This annual event is held on the engineering campus where hundreds of students from elementary, middle and high schools come to learn about computer graphics, robotics and programming. Thanks to David’s dedication, ingenuity and hard work, the summer-long camps have grown in just a short time from two sessions with 30 kids to more than a dozen camps that serve more than 700 students. And he does most of the work himself, including raising funds, finding the space, hiring and training instructors, and advertising the event. It’s because of these camps that the students come away with a new love and appreciation for computer science, many of whom later pursue an education and career in computing.

What David has nurtured is not only a valuable program for the university but an essential and treasured service for our community and its kids.

Outstanding Teaching Assistant — Matthew Turner, School of Computing

Matthew-Turner175x250It takes more than just knowledge and experience to be an effective teaching assistant. It also takes devotion and time . . . lots of time.

Matthew Turner, a beloved TA in the School of Computing proves that all of those qualities, along with a deep understanding of what students need, are the hallmarks of a successful assistant. But don’t take our word for it. Listen to what students have to say about his work with them:

“On many occasions he would stay in the lab for hours after his allotted time slot . . . and he would spend ample time with each student who had a question,” remarked one student.

“Matthew is by far the best TA I ever had,” said another. “Not only were all of his answers quick, concise, and accurate, he also stayed after his hours to help students with the difficult assignment.”

Those were just a handful of the accolades that Matthew has received from grateful students he has supported, and there are many more. Thanks to his enthusiastic spirit and commitment to serve, the students Matthew helps can keep moving forward, knowing that he’s just a question away.

Outstanding Teacher — Steven Burian, professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Steve-Burian175x250For more than 15 years, Steven Burian is proof that the key to becoming a beloved teacher comes from your heart, not just your head.

This highly respected associate professor in our civil and environmental engineering department has been a dedicated mentor and leader for countless students who have stepped into his classroom. He creates a vibrant learning environment with his imaginative presentations, guest lecturers, robust learning exercises and hands-on projects. And he gives each student the kind of individual attention they need to guarantee success in their own lives.

As one former student and now researcher said about Steven: “His gentle yet persistent encouragement has led me to become more confident in doing my research and moving forward with my career goal. I personally consider him to be a major influence on my own working style and philosophy.”

Steven Burian is a wonderful reminder of why we all went into this profession in the first place — to help shape young minds and forge new generations of inventive, thought-provoking young people who will make a difference.