Published: Mon Apr 26, 2010The recipients of this year’s Tennessee Tech University Outstanding Faculty Awards share a passion for teaching, excellence and service to the university as well as the wider community.
Anthony Baker, associate professor of English, and Steven Hayslette, associate biology professor, have been named winners of this year’s Outstanding Faculty Award in Teaching. Sastry Munukutla, director of TTU’s Center for Energy Systems Research and a mechanical engineering professor, receives this year’s Outstanding Faculty Award in Professional Service.
The criteria for nomination for awards in teaching are instruction competence and effectiveness. Criteria for the professional service award include service to the university in non-teaching and non-research capacities.
The three will receive cash prizes and recognition during TTU’s spring commencement ceremonies on May 8.
Anthony Baker: Outstanding Faculty Award in Teaching
Colleagues and students alike are overwhelmingly complimentary about Baker’s teaching style, use of technology and break-through teaching methods to both engage and encourage students and peers. Baker serves as director of composition for the TTU Department of English and Communications.
Student Hannah E. Vance, who took two upper level English courses with Baker, said she recommends Baker to anyone who is serious about learning.
“Dr. Baker is an enthusiastic and tireless instructor,” she said. “He expresses a clear desire to share a love of literature and expression through writing that others have long since lost or never had.”
Former student Michael Smith says he now uses what he calls the “Baker lens” to view literature in new perspectives.
“We put an imaginary lens between ourselves and what we were critiquing, thus allowing us to see using a different viewpoint...I call it the Baker lens and I find myself almost involuntarily using it,” Smith said.
Instructor of English Andrew Smith said he is amazed with Baker’s ability to balance his teaching with writing, scholarship and service to the department, the university and his profession.
“Dr. Baker brings an artist’s creativity and a student’s curiosity to the craft of teaching. The breadth of his expertise never ceases to impress me,” Smith said. “Without fail, students at all levels of their academic careers cite Dr. Baker as one of the best, for his blending of ambitious standards with accessible clarity. He’s as comfortable, compelling and compassionate in front of freshman composition students as he is with scholars in a graduate seminar.”
Baker is widely complimented for his work to coordinate the annual Festival of Student Writing, which has been held each spring semester since 2003.
“Too often writing classes give students the impression that their writing is meant only for the teacher,” said Heidemarie Weidner of the foreign languages department. “The festival … is a real happening where students showcase their writing … the festival convinces students and the many visitors that writing really matters.”
Steven Hayslette: Outstanding Faculty Award in Teaching
As an associate professor of biology, Hayslette consistently receives among the highest student evaluations within his academic department. His section of freshman non-majors typically has the largest enrollment, an indication that his reputation as an outstanding teacher is well known.
“Students have frequently told me that he is among the best teachers at the university,” said biology department chairperson Daniel Combs.
In addition to teaching large classes of non-major biology students, Hayslette has successfully developed and implemented a wide variety of courses for upper level major students as well.
“Dr. Steve Hayslette has been actively involved in all facets of instruction at TTU, ranging from teaching the most basic classes to some of the most advanced in his area of expertise. Not only does he teach large enrollment classes, but he also provides a great deal of individual instruction. He has devoted a tremendous amount of time to ensure that all of his students receive a quality education,” Combs said.
Hayslette’s real talent as a teacher lies in his ability to approach both beginning biology students and advanced ones in a manner that engages both. His ability to package broad concepts into easily digestible components is one of his strongest assets.
“Across the board, I hear what I would consider to be the best praise I could get from my students: his classes are hard, but fair; he makes the class enjoyable, but expects effort to make a good grade; he’s easy to understand, not talking down to or above the student’s level; and students can tell that he enjoys what he does,” said Chris Brown, assistant professor of biology.
Sastry Munukutla: Outstanding Faculty Award in Professional Service
Munukutla has worked hard to bring national and international recognition to TTU since he joined the university in 1986 as director for the Center for Energy Systems Research and as a professor of mechanical engineering. Munukutla, who plans to retire at the end of summer 2011, teaches courses in fluid thermal sciences and conducts research in areas of applied thermodynamics and energy conversion processes, laser diagnostics and wind tunnel measurements.
Although Munukutla is a bit reticent to discuss his accomplishments, his colleagues are not. No fewer than 16 of them submitted a nomination jointly for this award.
“He has been a leader in the development of innovative methods to improve power plant performance and actively participated in many highly regarded international conferences where his knowledge was disseminated. His scholarly contributions to the university as a teacher and researcher are quite evident,” said Stephen Idem, mechanical engineering professor.
As a leader at the Center of Excellence for Electrical Power, one of Munukutla’s primary responsibilities is to bring externally funded research projects to TTU. Toward that end, he organized a major marketing trip to electric utilities in Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey, Ohio and North Carolina in the fall of 1986 and over the years served as principal investigator on projects totaling nearly $2.7 million. The number of sponsors, including international companies, for his projects totals 32.
Among the major projects:
- Duke Power Co. highlighted the center’s work in its annual report and listed TTU along with prestigious institutions of Clemson, North Carolina State University, University of Virginia, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgia Tech. For Duke, TTU was contracted to conduct a feasibility study for online analysis of coal composition and measurement of coal flow rate.
- Power Magazine highlighted TTU’s work in its December 1989 issue to develop a device to sample coal ash emissions.
- Munukutla was elected an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1991, which has brought considerabe visibility to TTU. He was one of only 200 of the organization’s 36,000 members to be honored that year.
- Munukutla received the Booster Award from the AIAA Tennessee section in June 1993. He received the award for his contributions to aerospace research, his active support of the profession and his diligent promotion of TTU’s student AIAA chapter.
On a personal level, Munukutla has been very active in the Cookeville community and with the Indian Student Association at TTU.
“Many times he has gone out of his way to provide assistance to students who are experiencing personal difficulties,” Idem said.