Lassonde PhD candidate wins 2020 Engineering Education Award

Lassonde PhD candidate and teaching assistant in Mechanical Engineering, Minha R. Ha, has been awarded the 2020 Engineering Education Award from the Canadian Engineering Education Association (CEEA).

This is an annual award presented to a student who demonstrates unmatched leadership with a commitment to innovating engineering education, while making significant contributions to the field through their own research.

photo of Minha Ha

Minha Ha

Ha has made a variety of research, teaching and service contributions toward equity, diversity and inclusion, engineering ethics and responsible design for sociotechnical systems, pursuing practical solutions in these three areas for educational or business organizations.

In her passion for teaching, Ha loves discovering the unique talents and visions of her students and working with them to maximize their potential.

For Ha, the pandemic has taken away some key aspects of teaching that fuelled her passion, including face-to-face interaction and real-time classroom discussions that she believes deepens learning, between the instructor and students and between peers.

That said, she does admit the quick transition to the online environment, and the effort to maintain good communication with students, has had unexpected benefits.

“I met with students in groups or individuals a lot more online than I normally would get to in person during a semester," she said. "They received more input from me, and I got to know the students on a deeper level, accelerating the relationship building needed to advise and support them better.”

Another thing the remote learning context has taught Ha is to narrow down her priorities in teaching, focus on meaningful engagement in the classroom and highlight the importance of a well-crafted assessment philosophy.

“I was given room to transform a final exam from a sit-down written exam to a two-part submission. One part was a personalized piece relating to their unique project topics. The other was a set of common questions that required analysis or application that could not be performed simply by memorization. In the new format, students proved their ability to go way beyond the regurgitating course materials, to developing practical recommendations from the insights they gained through learning in the course," said Ha.

Ha says that these strategies – like increasing one-on-one meetings via Zoom calls or redesigning final assessments – is something she will continue doing even when in-person teaching returns. This serves as another example of her ability to innovate and adapt, to ensure students are receiving the tailored education they require to thrive in engineering and science.

As for the future of engineering education? Ha references the Lassonde School of Engineering Dean Jane Goodyer and several professors who have fuelled her academic and professional work – Andrew Maxwell, Franz Newland, Jeff Harris, Hossam Sadek and Alex Czekanski to name a few – as visionary exemplars of the ways innovation, social relevance and commitment to ethical leadership can help transform an institution.

“I believe in Dean Goodyer's vision for the school, which is to become the most socially engaged engineering school in Canada. This means our engineering education needs to be transdisciplinary, responsible and relevant to the students and the world around us," she said. "Our assumptions, beliefs, values and commitments shape the quality and impact of engineering programs.”

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