Three Virginia Tech departments received the 2015 Exemplary Department or Program Award.

The winners include the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering in the College of Engineering; the Department of Chemistry in the College of Science; and the Department of History in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

Presented annually since 1994, the University Exemplary Department or Program Awards program and ceremony are funded through the Office of the Provost and facilitated by the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research. The award recognizes the work of programs and/or departments that maintain exemplary teaching and learning environments for students and faculty, and, in particular, accomplish this through collaborative, group efforts.

For 2015, the awards theme recognized groups for effectively linking research and scholarship with teaching, with particular concentration on innovative programs. Each department or program will receive a portion of the $40,000 award for their achievements.

The university community is invited to celebrate the recipients at a recognition ceremony on Tuesday, March 1 from 6:30-8 p.m. at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center. Please register for the event.

Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering

The Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering currently serves around 25 faculty, 450 undergraduate students, and 175 graduate students.

The department regularly threads research into the curriculum, either through student-driven research projects or by incorporating student work into faculty-led research. Students are encouraged to participate in undergraduate research projects, sometimes a requirement of a minor or certificate program. In addition, undergraduates complete a year-long capstone project and many others are on extracurricular design teams.

The department makes high-tech laboratories and equipment available to students, including the Virginia Tech Stability Wind Tunnel, large 3-D printers for model and instrument fabrication, the Aerospace and Ocean Engineering Studio for Design Innovation, and the Newport News Shipbuilding instructional lab, among others.

The Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering also won the Exemplary Department Award in 1999.

Department of Chemistry

The Department of Chemistry serves more than 30 faculty, 300 undergraduate majors, and 150 graduate students.

Over a typical year, around 100 undergraduate chemistry majors participate in undergraduate research, either for course credit, through a paid position, or through a summer program. The department hosts an undergraduate research poster presentation at the end of each fall and spring semester to showcase the diverse projects students are involved in, while giving students an opportunity to practice communicating and sharing their research.

In addition, some courses have incorporated undergraduate research into the requirements, and the department offers some scholarships to help cover students’ costs to do independent projects over the summer.

The Department of Chemistry also won the Exemplary Department Award in 2014 and 2009.

Department of History

The Department of History serves around 30 faculty, 250 undergraduate majors, and 20 graduate students.

Undergraduate history majors take at least two courses that require major primary source-based research projects. Students are also encouraged to sign up for independent study or undergraduate research hours to pursue their areas of interest or collaborate with faculty on their projects. Students present their research in a variety of ways including blogs, posters, exhibits, conferences, digital storytelling, podcasts, and publication in the "Virginia Tech Undergraduate Historical Review."

In addition, the department offers a suite of public history courses, where student-conducted historical research is made available to a broader audience. These classes often partner with local organizations such as the Alexander Black House and Cultural Center, the Christiansburg Institute, and Smithfield Plantation.

The Department of History also won the Exemplary Department Award in 2008 and 2004.

About the Awards

complete list of past Exemplary Department or Program Award winners, along with the theme of the award for the year, is available online.

Next year’s award theme is, “Developing and sustaining effective large class instruction.” Information will be provided on the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research website.

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