When thinking of large universities that grant a high number of doctoral degrees and have very high research activity (what the Carnegie Foundation used to classify as "Research I" or "Tier I" institutions), people sometimes assume that teaching at such institutions takes a back seat to the research—that is not the case in Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering (CAEE) at the University of Texas at Austin (UT)! In CAEE teaching is a vital part of what we do and one of our department's strengths.
Our faculty are recognized for their teaching efforts at the college and University levels. For example, one was a recent honoree with a college award for exceptional teaching (see Cockrell School of Engineering for the most recent awards and for award links), and two are members of UT's Academy of Distinguished Teachers.
The faculty is composed of more than sixty individuals: professors of various ranks, adjuncts, lecturers, and assistant instructors. (For a complete listing, see the Faculty Directory, or view Faculty by Technical Area.) Faculty in all six of our Technical Areas have very high research activity, but in CAEE teaching and Research interrelate, with insights from the laboratories feeding into the faculty's teaching focus on applications and design. All faculty are dedicated to active learning that will provide a basis for life-long learning and development. (See further Center for Lifelong Engineering Education.)
Prospective undergraduate students and their parents are often surprised to learn that nearly all undergraduate courses are taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty members, with a few specialized courses taught by adjuncts. Even in a department as large as CAEE, the undergraduate student-teacher ratio is about 11 to 1. In larger lecture classes, students often have related, smaller lab sections where they can receive more-individual attention from teaching assistants (TAs), who are under the close supervision of the course's instructor of record. Even the use of TAs relates to CAEE's commitment to teaching, as the TA appointments are not only a source of financial aid for our graduate students but also a source of teaching experience.
When it comes to graduate courses, essentially all are taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty members, and the student-teacher ratio is about 8 to 1.
CAEE's commitment to teaching is also reflected in how well classrooms and teaching laboratories are equipped. Most CAEE courses are held in our home building of Ernest Cockrell Jr. Hall (ECJ), but all classrooms in the Engineering Complex are equipped with state-of-the-art multi-media podiums, from which instructors and students can use internet-connected computers and digital cameras feeding ceiling-mounted LCD projectors.
Classes at UT are based on the semester system, with fall classes beginning in late August, spring classes in mid-January, and summer classes in early June. Fall and spring terms are considered long semesters; multiple sessions of various lengths are held during the summer term. In all terms, undergraduate and graduate courses are scheduled on various combinations of days, Mondays through Fridays usually from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Generally, for each hour of academic credit 50 minutes is spent in the classroom; courses that have laboratory sessions may or may not give additional academic credit for time spent in those sessions, and, if so, the ratio of time to credit is different.
We strive for excellence in all aspects of teaching, whether inside or outside the classroom, and teaching certainly does take place outside of the classroom, too. For example, CAEE and other departments and organizations sponsor special lectures, such as the Distinguished Lecture Series, which are open to all. Graduate students meet weekly for presentations about their latest research. And, there are teachable moments in research labs, student organizations, and other activities.
Finally, CAEE is fortunate to have an excellent administrative and technical staff, without whom no teaching activity would really be possible. (See Staff Directory.)