A Unique Program Involving Liberal Arts and Study Abroad
“I love structural engineering, and I love my students. I want them to witness and experience the joy that I experience, not only in the thing – the bridge, the tower – but also in the possibility of what it means: to me, to them, to a world that needs their talent.”
Mark Valenzuela, PhD
Associate Professor of Civil Engineering
Undergraduate to Graduate School
Mark Valenzuela is an associate professor of mechanical and civil engineering at the University of Evansville and is a registered professional engineer in the State of Indiana. After receiving his undergraduate from Vanderbilt University and his PhD and MS in structural engineering from Cornell University, he started his teaching career as a visiting professor at his graduate school alma mater in the school of civil and environmental engineering.
A Focus on the Students’ Undergraduate Education
Valenzuela chose to pursue a career at a university that prioritizes undergraduate students over research. He felt drawn to UE due to the strong commitment to liberal arts. During his phone interview, he was provided with an opportunity to teach in First-Year Seminar and to spend a semester at Harlaxton College.
Liberal Arts is Important in Engineering
Valenzuela explains, “Most of my free electives at Vanderbilt were taken in philosophy because I was trying to minor in it as an undergrad. And at Cornell the structural engineering faculty was remarkable in their interests outside of their engineering expertise. Over the years I have maintained a love of music, art, philosophy, history, and religion. At UE I saw the potential to continue those pursuits and to collaborate with faculty and students outside of engineering and computer science.” He notes that the remarkable range and quality of academic programs combined with the small campus community allows for interaction with students and faculty from all areas of study.
Engineering Students Have an Opportunity to Study Abroad
Each fall, the College of Engineering and Computer Science ensures that an engineering or physics professor from UE teaches at Harlaxton in order to offer courses that will keep students on track to graduate in four years. Valenzuela has taught two semesters at Harlaxton College. He remarks, “So instead of a national average of 4 percent of engineering students studying abroad, at UE 25 percent of our engineering and computer science students do it. In fact, now it’s guaranteed!”
The Magic of Teaching
Valenzuela shares that, for him, the magic of teaching occurs when there is an electric connection between the professor’s passion for a discipline and the students’ openness to seeing the world differently. This ignites in the students a desire to make a difference in their lives and in the lives of others. Valenzuela has witnessed this magical element both in his classes in the College of Engineering and Computer Science and also with students from all areas on campus.
Remarkable Students Work on the Concrete Canoe
“Over my 18 years of teaching at UE, I’ve met some truly remarkable students who have gone on to do great and good things. The students I get to know best are the ones who work with me on the concrete canoe project. And I have always been amazed by their drive, their hard work, their creativity, and their willingness to go the extra mile. They don’t do it for a class or for a grade. They don’t do it for the resume (although it helps). They don’t do it to get on my good side. They do it because they have found something they love that combines their talents as engineering problem solvers with a project that always presents new challenges.”