Dr. Tamara Etmannski receives Killam Teaching Prize

Assistant Professor of Teaching Dr. Tamara Etmannski has been recognized with the 2020/2021 Killam Teaching Prize. This award is nominated by students, colleagues, and alumni and recognizes exceptional contributions through teaching.

In addition to serving as a faculty member in the Department of Civil Engineering, Dr. Etmannski holds several academic leadership roles in the Faculty of Applied Science. She is the Academic Director of the Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) and Master of Health Leadership Policy (MHLP) programs, and Co-Director of the joint UBC/UNBC undergraduate degree in Environmental Engineering.

As Assistant Professor of Teaching, Dr. Etmannski has developed many new courses around sustainability, leadership and entrepreneurship—for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Most recently, she helped co-develop CIVL 403: Engineering Economics Analysis (with fellow Killam Teaching Prize recipient Gabriel Potvin). Sitting at the intersection of politics, sustainability and best practices associated with applying economic principles in technical engineering decisions, this course will add a much-needed interdisciplinary perspective to the existing engineering curriculum. The pilot is set to launch in January 2022, with plans to share modules with other engineering economics instructors in the country through the Canadian Engineering Education Association (CEEA).

“These will be of great interest to the engineering community in Canada, as very little pedagogical material is currently available on the subject,” said Dr. Etmannski.

To bridge the gap between engineering and business and in response to demand from students and industry, Dr. Etmannski spearheaded the creation of the Minor in Entrepreneurship for undergraduate engineers. She collaborated closely with Sauder leadership to allow engineering students to take 300 and 400-level commerce courses without any prerequisites. After a successful pilot, the minor received glowing support from the finance division and launched in 2018.

As Academic Director of the MEL/MHLP programs, she was instrumental in their development, launch, and growth. Currently in their sixth cohort, program outcomes indicate that within six months of graduating, 80% of alumni either get promoted in their current organization, or transition into their chosen sector of specialization. Despite uncertainties surrounding COVID-19, the MEL/MHLP continue to experience record growth year-to-year.

Not one to shy away from experimentation in the name of education, Dr. Etmannski is known among students for her innovative teaching methods. For CIVL 302, she replaced lecture slides with guest speakers, all of whom are practicing engineers with personal stories to share that involve bullying, sexism, and racism in the workplace, as well as other ethics issues such as whistleblowing and conflict-of-interest.

Replacing pre-written case studies with live storytelling has reduced the amount of pre-reading students are required to do before class and allows students to get a more relaxed lecture experience.

“This is being done with the students’ mental health in mind, knowing how much they are struggling with issues related to online learning and COVID in general,” said Dr. Etmannski. “I wanted to bring some humanness and connect to the virtual classroom.”

For her efforts, Dr. Etmannski consistently receives positive feedback from students and achieves high ratings on teaching and course evaluations.

She explains that her teaching philosophy has always been to teach through real-world application. “Engineers appreciate when theoretical concepts are connected to tangible problems, and that’s how I approach my classes—attempting to connect theory with engineering practice as much as possible,” she said.

Dr. Etmannski is one of 24 Killam Teaching Prize recipients from across the campus one of three in Applied Science. Gabriel Potvin (Chemical and Biological Engineering) and Jordi Honey-Rosés (Community and Regional Planning) are also recognized. We congratulate Dr. Etmannski and all other recipients on this prestigious recognition and for their incredible contributions to student learning over the years.

To see the other Killam Winners, see this announcement from UBC Today.