SRU School of Engineering director named ASCE Professor of the Year
Xinchao “Steven” Wei, Slippery Rock University professor of physics and engineering and director of SRU’s School of Engineering, was named Professor of the Year by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Pittsburgh Section.
Feb. 21, 2022
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — The engraving on the award reads "Professor of The Year," but to its recipients, it should also read "University of The Year." Xinchao "Steven" Wei, Slippery Rock University professor of physics and engineering and director of SRU's School of Engineering, received the 2021 Professor of the Year Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers, Pittsburgh Section, at an awards ceremony, Feb. 19 in Pittsburgh.
"It's very meaningful for me professionally, but this award is really for the University," Wei said. "This helps continue to put the civil engineering program at SRU on the map in the Pittsburgh region. It is a combination of my efforts and those of the University, so I'm very proud of that."
Wei joined ASCE in 2017 and is one of nearly 1,700 members of the national organization's Pittsburgh Section, representing the civil engineering profession in western Pennsylvania. Each year, the section hosts an Engineers Week Awards Banquet and an awards committee votes to recognize a member for their "outstanding teaching ability, professional guidance to students, the advancement of civil engineering through publications and research, among other criteria."
The banquet occurred at the Engineers' Society of Western Pennsylvania in the Pittsburgh Engineers Building, a designated historic landmark.
Wei joined SRU in 2017 as the founding director of the School of Engineering. Since his arrival, he's been a prolific researcher, with 13 published journal articles, and has been recognized by students and peers for his outstanding teaching and passion for student success, as well as his visionary leadership in building SRU's engineering programs, which now consists of four majors, all added since 2016.
"Dr. Wei has played an instrumental role in launching and growing the engineering programs at SRU," said Athula Herat, associate professor of physics and engineering and department chair. "He is passionate about undergraduate education and works hard to build his students' technical skills as well as soft skills. His Introduction to Engineering course has been consistently voted the most favorite by engineering students and he has formed five engineering student organizations, including the ASCE, SRU student chapter, which he serves as faculty adviser."
Wei said that it's important for both he and SRU to be involved with the ASCE so that courses are taught in ways that are relevant to the industry and ensure that SRU is preparing students for employment, and that they have relationships with professionals and the ability to access other opportunities, whether it be for internships or designing projects.
"Essentially, the relationship with ASCE helps develop a stronger engineering program that is in line with the needs of the workforce," Wei said. "That's been quite beneficial (as we build our programs) and several of the ASCE members have been serving on our industry advisory board."
With worker shortages and physical infrastructures, including the recent Fern Hollow Bridge collapse in Pittsburgh, continuing to be issues affecting the region and the nation, engineering jobs continue to be at the forefront, making the job of engineering professors such as Wei critically important.
"No matter what specialty area you have as a professor, you need to transfer the knowledge to the expectations of the workforce," Wei said. "We should instill the importance of ethics into our courses and design project, so that when our students graduate, they can be successful and continue the highest standards practiced in the field of engineering."
According to Wei, students also need to develop other skills beyond design, analytical and technical skills. And teaching those skills is what makes a good professor.
"Engineers need to be independent learners with good communication and leadership skillsd because large companies have lean (workforces)," Wei said. "That means as an engineer you might do multiple things and finding yourself having to be a team player."
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