North Carolina State University
2016 Excellence in Teaching Award Winner: Jeffrey A. Joines, North Carolina State University
Jeffrey A. Joines, associate professor and associate department head of undergraduate studies in the Department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science, joined the faculty of North Carolina State University in 2000.
Joines, honored in 2012 as an NC State Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor, is passionate about teaching and creating the best environments to foster student learning. His teaching philosophy is rooted in the belief that a teacher must have passion for his or her subject and must create active learning environments emphasizing “real-world” experiences that will challenge students to reach new levels of success.
Armed with an unfailing enthusiasm for his subject matter and the faith that students, when properly motivated, will embrace the opportunity to learn and engage with each other, Joines provides students the freedom to collaboratively test their creative skills to solve real-world problems. To facilitate his students’ success, Joines not only has designed new classes that have become a cornerstone of the textiles engineering curriculum, but also has implemented a new classroom design with reconfigurable pie-shaped desks and computer monitors on all sides, allowing faculty and students to more easily engage with each other.
It is not surprising, given this commitment to his students that Joines continues to engage with and encourage students beyond the classroom and after graduation. As just one example, a former student thanked Joines for helping him to master supply chain modeling and problem-solving, and that the company with whom he had a summer internship considered him a “superstar,” offered him a permanent position.
Jon Rust, colleague and former head of the Department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science, praises Joines as “exceptionally gifted in his ability to lead effective learning in the classroom” and for his “keen sense of interest in demonstrating through verifiable assessment practices what really works best for students’ long-term professional development.” A recent survey of textile engineering alumni attests to Joines’ impact beyond the classroom. Eighty-four percent of respondents stated that Computer-Based Modeling for Engineers (TE/ISE 110), a course he co-created with College of Engineering colleague Steve Roberts, made a significant difference in their careers.
In addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate classes, mentoring students and designing courses, Joines believes that serving on teaching-related committees is essential for realizing continuous improvement in curricula and in student learning outcomes. For the past three years, he chaired NC State’s Evaluation of Teaching Committee. This group developed a template to ensure more consistency in peer reviews of teaching and created educational materials for all faculty on the use of mid-semester student evaluations as a way to enhance teaching practices. Joines currently serves on the university-wide Council of Undergraduate Education and chairs the course and curriculum committee of the Department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science.
Joines earned a BS in electrical engineering and a BS in industrial engineering (1990), a MS in industrial engineering (1993) and a PhD in industrial engineering (1996), all from North Carolina State University.
Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?
A. I’m humbled to be recognized as a top teacher because teaching is a passion for me and it means a lot to be recognized by my peers. I’m also humbled as I look at the list of people who have won in the past and at the other teachers who are being honored this year. There’s a quote by John Podojil that I keep taped to my computer. It says: “Teaching is not a profession; it's a passion. Without passion for your subject and a desire for your students to learn and be the best in the world, then we have failed as a teacher and failure is not an option.” That’s what teaching means to me. I’m thrilled that NC State and the university system share that passion.
Q. What was your path into teaching?
A. During my undergraduate years, while I was earning degrees in electrical engineering and industrial engineering at NC State, I had internships at IBM. They kept making me job offers, but I kept putting them off. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I went on and got my master’s and Ph.D. in industrial engineering. One of my professors, Russell E. King, encouraged me to teach. He said, “Jeff, you’re really good at it. You know how to take complicated subjects and help students understand them.” I also had teaching in my blood. My mom was a seventh grade English teacher, so I got my passion for teaching from her.
Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?
A. About 12 years ago, our students in textile engineering were required to take a class in C++ in the computer science department. They never used it; it was just a box they had to check off. At the time I was working with companies to help them solve real-world problems, and I was doing a lot of data manipulation in Excel using Visual Basic. I realized that this was a skill that our students needed. So I worked with the industrial engineering department to create a class called TE110, Computer-Based Modeling with Excel and Visual Basic. The class teaches students to use data to make better decisions and to build decision support systems. When we did a survey of our recent alumni a couple of years ago, 84 percent said that class made a difference in their careers by giving them a skill set that allowed them to be very successful. For me, that’s a pretty big achievement.
Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?
A. It’s all about active learning or inquiry guided learning. I often use computer simulations with real data that the students collect themselves. I might have them roll toy cars across a piece of paper or shoot marbles with little catapults – anything that helps them visualize complex principles such as statistical variance and tolerance parameters.