Michelle Seref, Ph.D.
Full Collegiate Professor in the Department of Business and Information Technology
Excellence in Teaching Award by 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 Seref, her approach to teaching focuses on experiential learning: “I use hybrid teaching techniques and interactive lectures and promote student engagement through hands-on learning. I offer my students a customized pedagogy, using a variety of course materials to offer both online and in-class learning options. My lectures require participatory learning, in which students work along with me to solve a business example.”
When asked to describe her most meaningful experiences as a teacher, Seref stated, “I love to build students' confidence! I love to help students progress throughout the semester by helping them practice new skills and understand new concepts. I love to see their sense of accomplishment when they present their final project applications at the end of the semester! I always tell them how proud I am of them for learning so much! I want our students (Virginia Tech, Pamplin, BIT) to stand out at the workplace because they are confident in their problem-solving skills!”
Former student, Fadi Ghanem, said this about Seref: “Now, she has to be one of the best professors I've ever had so far. She has all the best traits that students look for in a teacher: she's understanding, passionate, exciting (even for a coding class), interactive, and hard-working.” Regarding Seref’s teaching approach, Ghanem stated that Seref “teaches the material super well, and does a great job of connecting the coding techniques to real world situations that most of us will be likely to experience in our jobs post-college.” On top of the Seref’s effective teaching Ghanmen also commented on how Seref made her feel especially cared for: “She does her best to connect with her students on a deeper level, to make them feel special in who they are. One of the first things we bonded over was our love for the Middle East and the Arabic language. She asked about my Palestinian heritage and my time living there, and knowing that she actually cared about who I am and what I am proud of made me feel so great.”
Quinton Nottingham, Department Head of Business InformationTechnology, described Seref as a “a gifted teacher who works very hard to give her students every opportunity to succeed in the classroom and in the workforce.” Nottingham also acknowledged Seref’s role in organizing the BIT showcase, serving as co-advisor to Collegiate Women in Business (CWIB), and working with the Pamplin Undergraduate Mentoring Program (PUMP). According to Nottingham, “These additional activities show Michelle’s enthusiasm for her work and her excitement to engage with students.”
Seref also helped establish the Pamplin Engage Undergraduate Teaching Assistantship Program. This program gives undergraduate students the opportunity to become teaching assistants for courses in the college of business
Seref’s colleague, Barbara Fraticelli said this about Seref and the Pamplin Engage Undergraduate Teaching Assistantship Program: “Her vision for and leadership of the Pamplin Engage Undergraduate TA Program is the driving force behind its success. Developed at the start of the pandemic to increase student engagement during online classes, the Engage TA program has grown from 100 TA positions in Fall 2020 to over 200 positions in Spring 2023. Engage TAs now support both online and in-person instruction, and the program has been used as a model for other colleges. A hallmark of the program is the 16-hour training program that was completely developed by Michelle.”
Seref provided the following advice for new college teachers: “I would advise teachers to avoid policing students with attendance and other restrictions. Instead, I would encourage COLLABORATION by having students work together and help each other on assignments. As we prepare our students for the work place, it is important that they learn how to work collaboratively. (There is a difference between collaborating and cheating, between helping and copying.) I would encourage teachers to incorporate small group assignments throughout the semester. I would encourage teachers to use real-world examples to motivate students to understand how they will use class concepts in their careers. I would encourage teachers to embrace experiential hands-on learning to help students engage in the learning process.”