Ken Walsh, assistant professor of civil engineering at Ohio University’s Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering Technology, is building more than sound structures — he’s building rapport with his students.
Walsh has received Ohio University’s University Professor Award for the 2013-14 school year, one of four such awards presented at a ceremony in Faculty Commons in Alden Library Thursday evening.The only teaching honor at OHIO determined entirely by the student body, the award recognizes outstanding teaching at the university and allows the professor to develop a course of their choice.
“I was surprised to learn that I was nominated and again to find out that I had been selected,” Walsh said, “Now, I’m just overwhelmed. It really is an honor to be the recipient of such a prestigious award.”
Walsh’s new course will focus on the use of innovative technologies to solve problems in the area of structural vibration control, his research area. Walsh’s research, which has received financial support from the National Science Foundation, focuses on developing new technology for reducing earthquake-induced vibrations in buildings and bridges. He’s currently designing, building, and testing a small-scale version.
“If successful, I believe it could be a valuable tool for protecting structures from the damaging effects of earthquakes,” he said.
When it comes to his career, Walsh said he is most passionate about the opportunity to be a life-long learner. While he is always learning new things on how to improve his teaching or research, he also enjoys learning from his students.
“I have learned a lot through casual conversations with my students,” he said. “I enjoy getting to know the students on a more personal level. They come from all walks of life and often have interesting stories to share.”
Civil engineering student Norm Sommers, who has known Walsh three years and taken several classes from him from a large lecture to a two-student summer course, says Walsh calibrates his teaching to fit the appropriate setting.
“I can attest to Dr. Walsh’s personable attitude, his commitment and passion for teaching, and his ability to get a laugh out of every student almost every day in our ‘Structural Design in Steel’ class, which is a very difficult thing to do,” Sommers said.
“Dr. Walsh also insists students visit his office if they are struggling or need help, and he does his best making sure every student has what they need to become successful,” he added.
Despite his relationships with them, most of Walsh’s students probably don’t know he didn’t set out to be an engineer.
“I originally went to college to be a veterinarian,” he said. “I struggled in my first couple of years and eventually switched my major.”
He said interacting with students is one of his favorite parts of being a teacher.
“I try to create a relaxed learning environment where students can feel comfortable contributing and asking questions,” he said.
When relaxing outside the classroom, Walsh plays and watches soccer and spends time with his two young children.
“I’m hoping that someday I will be able to combine the two,” Walsh said.
Walsh’s colleague Eric Steinberg, professor of civil engineering, has collaborated with him on research ideas, handling student and classroom challenges, and also out on the soccer field playing on a recreational league team together.
“Ken is an aggressive and physical player, but he still plays clean and remains fair,” Steinberg said.
Civil Engineering Department Chair Gayle Mitchell expects these qualities will continue to serve him well in his teaching role.
“The Civil Engineering Department is very proud of Dr. Walsh’s accomplishment and pleased that he has been recognized for his excellent teaching and rapport with students,” Mitchell said.