Pedro Arce, Ph.D, chemical engineering professor, university distinguished faculty fellow at Tennessee Tech University and fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, found his love of education early.
It started when he was tutoring classmates in high school. That passion only grew when he attended the Universidad Nacional del Litoral in Santa Fe, Argentina. Later, Arce became a teaching assistant and then a lecturer in the university’s Department of Physical Chemistry. He went on to earn his master’s and doctorate from Purdue University in Indiana.
“During this journey, it became a passion for me to be an expert in the knowledge acquisition and knowledge transfer that is at the core of student learning,” Arce said. “Therefore, for me, ‘working’ in the education field has been – and continues to be – a lifetime dream journey and being a college professor: a dream job!”
Since joining Tech’s faculty more than 20 years ago, Arce has developed a teaching-learning style that puts students in the driver’s seat of their own education. He spearheaded the creation of the Renaissance Foundry Model, which focuses on educating students on critical thinking, leadership and team-based skills through experimental experiences instead of instructor-centered explanations.
Arce calls this “a new type of engineer” who is holistic, innovative, socially impactful and has an entrepreneur’s mindset. It has even been acknowledged as a best practice by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), with their Thomas C. Evans Award in 2014 and 2021 and the Zone II Best Paper Award in 2015.
“I have focused on developing innovative approaches that enable students to become master learners and capable of transferring their knowledge to create prototypes of innovative technology to address societal needs,” he said.
Arce has been accepted as a life member of the ASEE. Life membership is voted on by the group’s board of directors, which decides if each applicant is embodying their vision statement of providing “excellent and broadly accessible education, empowering students and engineering professionals to create a better world.” Arce has a long history of doing just that.
He has served as a member of the publication board of the Journal of Chemical Engineering Education, been the chair of the administrative division of the Southeastern section, contributed articles to the annual proceedings, as well as offered multiple workshops to train K-12 teachers and college professors at the regional and national meetings. He has been recognized five times with the prestigious Thomas C. Evans award from the ASEE-SE for the most outstanding instructional paper and the Middle Career Award for outstanding teaching, among other distinctions.
“We have all learned so much from Pedro,” said fellow Tennessee Tech chemical engineering professor and university distinguished faculty fellow, Joseph Biernacki. “He always says, ‘It is not about teaching; it is all about learning,’ – a saying that is so very true. When we recognize that we, the faculty, are only facilitators of learning, not oracles of all knowledge, and we relinquish control of learning to the student, we all benefit. Thanks to Pedro’s perseverance and methodical development of pedagogies that foster good instruction, we now have a structured way to view STEM education that is reaching way beyond the boundaries of Tennessee Tech.”