New Coffman chair seeks to maximize value of undergraduate teaching resources at K-State
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
MANHATTAN — Kansas State University's newest Coffman Chair for Distinguished Teaching Scholars believes undergraduate teaching is the key to the university's success today and in the future.
That's why Julia Keen plans to spend her tenure as chair evaluating the effectiveness of K-State's existing faculty undergraduate teaching programs, resources and materials and assessing ways they could be strengthened and maximized, especially during this time of tight budgets.
"Undergraduate education is critically important as it directly contributes to the success of society and the university in the long term," Keen said. "Excellence in undergraduate teaching not only attracts students initially but also creates a cycle of sustainability and continues to attract future students. Successful students become successful alumni who then contribute positively to K-State's function and reputation."
Keen, the Bob and Betty Tointon engineering chair and professor of architectural engineering and construction science, will serve as the Coffman chair for the 2020-2021 academic year. The Coffman chair was created in 1995 to highlight the university's commitment to excellence in undergraduate teaching and learning. Each chair is an acknowledged leading teaching scholar and is provided the time and resources to conduct a research project or develop programs to improve educational methods at the university.
Since joining K-State in 2003, Keen has spent her career focused on undergraduate teaching. She typically teaches nine credit hours a semester and serves as advisor to 40 students each year. She also has developed eight new courses and rewritten four others for the GE Johnson Department of Architectural Engineering and Construction Science. She has taught all of these courses as well as three others. In addition, she serves as an advisor to competition teams and student organizations in the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering and serves on university- and departmental-level committees. She also has supervised undergraduate researchers.
Keen believes her project can help the university maximize its investment potential when it comes to undergraduate teaching.
"Understanding the importance of undergraduate education and its impact on the university budget instigated the idea to assess the effectiveness of all resources focused on undergraduate teaching available to K-State faculty," Keen said. "The aim of my project is not to cut resources but instead evaluate the existing programs and identify ways to be more effective with the funding, therefore maximizing the value."
The assessment methodology of Keen's project will include surveys of current faculty to determine their needs and awareness of resources, as well as to establish a more accurate picture of the value placed on, and culture regarding, undergraduate education at K-State. She also will research successful programs at other colleges and universities.
Keen is committed to excellent undergraduate teaching. While her bachelor's and master's degrees are in architectural engineering from K-State, she decided to get her doctorate in curriculum and instruction, also from K-State, after she joined the university faculty.
"I personally felt a need for more formal training and education regarding how to become a good educator," Keen said. "I was competent in the technical content being presented in my classes, but I did not know how to best educate, assess or present this information to my students. I found this an extremely important step in my personal growth as an educator, advisor and professor."
Her dedication to undergraduate teaching has paid off with many honors, including the 2018 E.K. Campbell Teaching Award from ASHRAE. She also has received the Coonrod Family Construction Faculty Award; Multicultural Engineering Program Faculty Engagement Award; the College of Engineering's Myers-Alford Memorial Teaching Award, Charles H. Scholer Faculty Award and Hollis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching; and the American Society of Engineering Educators' Midwest Section Outstanding Teaching Award.
Keen was named to the Bob and Betty Tointon chair in 2013 and was promoted to full professor in 2015. She has served in the K-State Faculty Senate, including as president in 2013-2014. She currently serves on the President's Advisory Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, chairing the Academic Integrity/Student-Athlete Welfare Subcommittee. She also has served on several university and department committees dealing with the university budget and student tuition and fees.