Kevin Hamed, Ph.D.
Collegiate Assistant Professor of Wildlife Conservation
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. According to Hamed, his approach to teaching focuses on having fun but in a rigorous and relevant manner. He said, “I want students to have fun while learning. In doing so, I still maintain rigor and standards, but I try to make even the most difficult academic challenges fun. Many of my courses include a field component, and I encourage students to use their natural curiosity to explore and learn from our natural world.”
During the spring of 2021, Dr. Hamed had the opportunity to develop a new capstone course called “Biodiversity Conservation.” According to Hamed, the course was meant to “attempt to answer real-world questions while practicing Ut Prosim and supporting our local communities.” Hamed provided an example of a project to capture the essence of the course. “For example, students from the first Biodiversity Conservation course helped the town of Christiansburg quantify the biodiversity of newly constructed wetlands,” he said. He added that “real-world problems provide students fantastic opportunities to evaluate challenges and create solutions while utilizing their knowledge and skills.”
Hamed said most meaningful experiences as a teacher “are watching students’ passion for wildlife conservation ignite and grow.” He said, “I love when students who are unsure of their potential career discover a particular aspect of fish and wildlife conservation, whether it be hawks, snakes, salamanders, or any other species we study. As a professor, watching students develop throughout their academic careers and then move into their professional roles is incredibly rewarding.” For Hamed, however, learning is not merely about professional development. He said that a particularly rewarding occurrence for him is “when former students share nature explorations with their families and children as they are teaching the next generation what we learned together in our courses.”
Logan Anderson, one of Hamed’s former students, highlighted Hamed’s dedication to his future and said that he “could write a book on how much pleasure it has been to work under this amazing man.”
Another one of Hamed’s former students, Maggie Smith, also emphasized Hamed’s commitment to students and their learning. According to Smith, “He takes the time to understand each student and their unique interests. In his courses, he prioritizes getting students hands-on experience in the field. Dr. Hamed’s classes are packed with interesting information with an emphasis on the practical knowledge we will need in our careers. His classes are filled with jokes, guest speakers, undergraduate research opportunities, videos, and personal stories from the field.”
Austin Holloway, also a former student of Hamed, described another positive aspect of Hamed’s teaching. “He is always willing to go the extra mile to help students,” Holloway said.
Hamed provided the following advice for new college teachers: “New faculty members have numerous commitments, but I would encourage them to remember that one of the greatest impacts they will ever have is to change a student’s life. Each day we walk into a classroom, we have been given an incredible opportunity and responsibility. I always believe that today could be the day that I help a student begin their successful future.”