Marie Paretti receives Sporn Award for Teaching Introductory Engineering Subjects

BLACKSBURG, Va., Dec. 29, 2008 – Marie Paretti, assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, was recently honored with the university's 2008 Sporn Award for Teaching Introductory Engineering Subjects.

Sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the Virginia Tech Academy for Teaching Excellence, the Sporn Award for Teaching Introductory Engineering Subjects is presented annually to a Virginia Tech faculty member to recognize excellence in teaching introductory-level courses. Nominations are received from students only, and recipients are selected from a committee comprised of student representatives from Omicron Delta Kappa and Golden Key honor society and a faculty advisor who was the previous year's award winner. Recipients are awarded a $2,000 cash prize and are inducted into the university’s Academy of Teaching Excellence.

When Paretti joined the department in August of 2004, she remained as the director of the engineering communications program, a joint effort between Virginia Tech’s Departments of Engineering Science and Mechanics and Materials Science and Engineering. As director, she works with her staff to teach professional skills, including communication, collaboration, and global competence, to students in both programs. She also helps the materials science and engineering students develop professional portfolios to showcase their work.

One of her numerous nominators for the Sporn Award, Frederick Cook, a senior in engineering science and mechanics, said, “Dr. Paretti embodies Ut Prosim through her service to her students and her genuine caring and compassion for them and their education. Combined with her aptitude for teaching and communication, she is an asset to our department and to the College of Engineering.”

Another student, Katie Clark, a senior in materials science and engineering, described Paretti’s abilities to help “students obtain valuable professional skills by teaching everything from e-mail etiquette to project management for senior design projects. The lessons learned in her classes are directly applicable to the students’ everyday lives.”

Paretti’s selection for the Sporn Award was through a highly competitive process. The profiles of five finalists were submitted to the Student Engineers’ Council. The council, acting on behalf of the entire engineering student body, then selected Paretti.

Paretti’s move to engineering education transitioned her from a nontenure-track position that she held in engineering science and mechanics and materials science and engineering. In engineering education, she and her colleagues Lisa McNair and Sean McGinnis have launched an interdisciplinary design course in green engineering.

In 2007, Paretti served on a panel established by the Virginia Department of Education to examine the necessary content for K-12 science and engineering education. Last year she was also an invited participant at the Harvey Mudd Design Workshop that brings together some 50 to 75 prestigious engineers, designers, researchers, and educators to discuss issues that are important to design education in particular and to engineering education in general.