Innovative Pedagogy Interview

Dr. Truc Ngo, Associate Professor, Engineering

Photo of Truc Ngo

Truc Ngo-- A Changemaker Engineer

What’s the magic formula to measure good teaching?  Answer: collaboration + collective vision = intellectual diversity. Don’t forget…“good teaching” says that you need to subtract consensus and add creative leadership….

Wait. Let’s get serious. We all know that there is no equation to measure “good” teaching. If there were, we would all have a lot more time on our hands!  That’s because student-centered teaching begins with the professor. As professors, our success lies in our ability to build trust in the classroom, to foster creative courage, enhance engagement, and to achieve equality even when consensus does not exist.

No big deal, right? WRONG.

For Dr. Truc Ngo, Associate Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering, teaching IS a big deal. That’s why she was recently awarded the Faculty Engineering Spotlight Award.  According to Ngo, creative leadership in the classroom makes all of the difference. It’s the intentional effort to move away from “do as I say” towards embracing an approach that says: “let’s co-create and cultivate a plan of action.” In the classroom, Ngo finds collaborative teaching models to be the inspiration that encourages intellectual diversity and motivates student engagement.

 How do personal experiences impact your teaching?

 After growing up in a war-torn country with much corruption, and having to witness unjust treatments of people simply due to their social status or political beliefs, I was motivated to help the weakest and poorest of the poor to find ways to succeed in life. I had the privilege of being an engineer surrounded with ample opportunities, and I realized that I had the power to make a meaningful change in this world.

 What professional experience do you bring to the classroom?

 When I started my professional career, I worked as a senior process engineer for one of the most competitive high-tech companies in the world. I wanted to know what it was like to be part of that frontline engineering workforce to develop the greatest and latest technology for humankind. This experience pushed me to learn much of real-world engineering in the shortest amount of time. I was then able to bring these experiences and appreciation into my academia career.

 Describe your teaching philosophy:

 My teaching philosophy is to prepare my students to face the real world and practice their engineering skills in the most fundamental but also meaningful kinds of way. In addition, I want my students to see the connection between their engineering preparation

and societal advancement. I give students the opportunities to participate in technical research activities that are related to climate change, and humanitarian engineering activities where they can help improve living conditions of the underserved populations around the world. I get to know my students best during these occasions when we do not have to worry about grades or exams. My students and I often laughed, argued, and brainstormed together to come up with the most optimal solutions to address the most challenging global problems.

 What is your proudest teaching moment?

My most rewarding moments have always been when that light bulb clicks on inside students’ heads, making them realize where they want to go in life and how to maneuver their career paths to achieve that happiness they always desire. I believe that if each of us can just think slightly beyond our own comfortable, protective shell, we all can influence others and work with others around us to make the world a better place for everyone.