Celebration of professor achievement

Photograph Courtesy of Ursinus Communications

Emily Jolly

emjolly@ursinus.edu

     Every year at commencement, Ursinus presents awards to faculty members to celebrate their achievements as mentors and teachers. Nominations are now open for the upcoming commencement ceremony for the Jones Award for Distinguished Advising and Mentoring and the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award.

     The Jones Award is given to a professor who has shown outstanding advising and mentoring, and the Lindback Award (which exchanges with the Laughlin Teaching Award yearly depending on the source of the funding), is presented to a professor who is an excellent teacher. Both awards are student nominated and then reviewed by a committee. The list is then sent to the President for the final selection.

     Last year, the Jones Award for Distinguished Advising and Mentoring went to Professor Lisa Grossbauer of the Mathematics department, and the Laughlin Teaching Award went to Dr. Del Engstrom of the Health and Exercise Physiology department.

     Grossbauer said she was “beyond surprised” to receive the Jones Award last spring. “I am a non-tenured faculty member and was unaware that I was eligible for this prestigious award.  I prefer to fly “under the radar” and quietly help my students so this award took me off guard in a public way.  It was a very emotional and humbling moment in my life because the ‘students spoke,’ which made it incredibly meaningful for me,” said Grossbauer.

     Grossbauer has been at Ursinus for nine years now. She spent the first three and a half years earning her teaching certificate in math education. Before coming to Ursinus, Grossbauer earned her undergraduate degree in mathematics and her graduate degree in applied statistics at Villanova University, and worked in the life sciences division of the US Navy at the Naval Air Development Center while in college.

     “My ultimate career goal was to become an astronaut and work for NASA.  I never made it to space, but I did spend my entire career working ground control as an aerospace engineer for Lockheed Martin. I still would love to travel to space if anyone has an ‘in’ with Elon Musk!” said Grossbauer.

     Although Grossbauer originally saw herself “orbiting earth, not captive in a classroom,” she found later in life that “my desire to share my passion for mathematics and engineering drove me into the classroom, and the students who confess that mathematics is not ‘their thing’ keep me here.”

     Within her research, Grossbauer said she has been “fortunate to straddle two worlds: industry and academia.” Her research in industry involved “evaluating system performance and statistical algorithms as it [relates] to orbital mechanics.”

     In academia, however, she focuses mostly on statistical and math education. According to Grossbauer, “Students in the United States lag far behind most industrial nations in math competency.  At what point during mathematical development are we losing our students?  When do they disengage from mathematics? There is no doubt that algebra is the gateway to success in the STEM fields so this disengagement is happening very early in their educational careers. I am most interested in studying this very complex problem and helping to train the next generation of teachers so they can start chipping away at it.”

     Grossbauer’s favorite part of advising and mentoring students is hearing about their successes as well as their failures when they stop by her office. She loves to listen and help them grow and adapt as they “discover their way.” 

     “I often catch myself bragging about my students as a parent would in certain circles. It is a daily blessing to watch students mature and discover their passion and purpose in life,” said Grossbauer.

     Dr. Engstrom was also surprised and honored to receive the Laughlin Teaching Award.

     “The experience of working alongside many other excellent teachers in both the HEP Department and across the campus in my CIE experiences has been the highlight of my professional career . . . The best part of teaching is being able to observe your students develop and mature as young professionals. I encourage my students to pursue the avenues about which they are most passionate, but also to be open to explore new opportunities since they often turn out to be unexpected joys in life,” said Engstrom.

     Engstrom has been teaching at Ursinus for 25 years now and is passionate about teaching in a “variety of arenas in wellness education and fitness education.”

     Engstrom completed his undergraduate degree in physical education with a minor in English and recieved his teacher certification and master’s degree from California State University in Fresno. He taught and coached in secondary schools in California for several years before completing his Ed.D in Physical Education at the University of Northern Colorado. Coming to the East Coast, Ursinus gave Engstrom the chance to pursue his goals.

     Engstrom was inspired to teach by the teachers and coaches in his life. He competed in sports such as football and baseball, and learned “the importance of leading a healthy, active lifestyle.”

     According to Engstrom, “I wanted to share those same experiences with young people and had the good fortune to teach physical education, English, and mathematics and coach several sports in high school for 14 years. The opportunity to teach in college allowed me the chance to help encourage future teachers on their own pedagogical journeys and to research the beneficial aspects of physical activity upon one’s health and learning.”

     Engstrom summed up part of his passion for teaching in one of his favorite quotes: “The students you teach are infinitely more important than the content you teach.”

     Nominations are currently being sought for recipients of the Jones Award and the Lindback Award. Ursinus students are encouraged to nominate any professors they believe are worthy of these distinguished awards. For more information students can visit the Ursinus College website.