January 2021: Mantu Hudait
Associate professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Excellence in Teaching Award from the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Virginia Tech
The award, presented by the center to approximately nine Virginia Tech faculty members each academic year, recognizes a faculty member's effective, engaged, and dynamic approaches and achievements as an educator.
Among the goals of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning are advancing experiential learning at Virginia Tech and improving student learning through research-based instructional practices and student-centered design. For Hudait, experiential education is a vital piece of his approach to teaching. He designs his lectures around his experiences in industry, which become a springboard for students to address relevant, real-world problems. “I bring students from class to our lab for real experimental demonstrations,” Hudait said. “My primary goal is to foster students’ independent critical thinking and analytical reasoning to augment their problem solving skills, rather than rote memorization.”
For Hudait, receiving follow-ups and Thank-a-Teacher notes are among the most meaningful experiences in teaching. Hudait receives numerous letters from students thanking him for his enthusiasm and practicality in class, helpful career advice, and bringing humor and interest to the subject matter.
In a recent Thank-a-Teacher note, one student highlighted Hudait’s enthusiasm, commitment to centering students, and teaching through an ethic of care. “What stands out to me the most was your passion when you teach,” the student wrote. “The energy really makes me enjoy the lecture—even if I sometimes watched the recordings, I can still feel your love and energy through the screen.”
Another student wrote to thank Hudait for making his class on semiconductors exciting and practical, not only for learning the material but also for obtaining internships and industry knowledge. “I am very grateful that you took the time to explain every aspect of the devices in detail, came up with clever metaphors like the Five Guys peanuts, and really taught me a lot,” the student wrote. “I’m definitely more confident about getting a job now and I am grateful to you and your teaching skills for helping me become a better engineer!”
After eleven years of teaching at Virginia Tech, Hudait advises new faculty to take students’ background and maturity into account, and to take responsibility for preparing students for life-long learning. His mission is to help students learn how to learn rather than merely dispensing knowledge. “To be most effective as an instructor, one must create a safe environment that is interactive and collaborative, and that promotes problem-solving and critical thinking skills,” Hudait advised. “Students acquire life-long learning skills that will prepare them to function effectively and excel in their career upon graduation.”