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Deans and administrators from each college suggested one of their faculty members who deserves special “kudos” during Faculty Appreciation Week.

Richard BennettRichard Bennett’s work is at the heart of efforts to enhance the UT Knoxville method of teaching freshman undergraduate engineering students.

As the director of the ENGAGE Engineering Fundamentals Division in the College of Engineering and a professor of civil and environmental engineering, Bennett oversees the vital work of helping guide freshmen through a core curriculum that is designed to prepare them not only for the rigors of an undergraduate engineering degree, but also for their future careers.

“I thoroughly enjoy teaching,” Bennett said. “I’m probably crazy to teach freshmen, but I enjoy helping them make that transition from high school to college.”

ENGAGE has been nationally recognized for its unique approach that allows student to gain practical experience by working on team projects involving physics, computer tools and engineering design. Bennett’s passion for the position is reflected in his work with students, according to Masood Parang, associate dean and professor in the College of Engineering.

“Dick is an excellent teacher and administrator,” Parang said.

In addition to overseeing the program, Bennett has taught courses in ENGAGE for 10 years, and his work, combined with that of other faculty, has improved student performance, reflected in progressively higher rankings for the program overall. In addition, ENGAGE coordinated preparation for the national Fundamentals of Engineering exam, and UT Knoxville students have scored above the national average on the test for five straight semesters.

Bennett’s dedication to helping his students achieve their goals is a principle that he has had throughout his 27 years at UT.

“Once a student slept through his final exam and came in at the end of class in a panic,” Bennett said. “I decided to let him take the exam. It ended up that my daughter babysat his kids and he ended up giving her a real job because he remembered how I let him take the final. I guess I made the right decision that day 15 years ago.”

Bennett enjoys woodworking and building furniture in his spare time. But, above all, he loves his job and hopes to continue teaching for a long time.

Bennett has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Cleveland State University and a master’s degree and doctorate in civil engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His specialties include masonry design and structural dynamics.

In honor of Faculty Appreciation Week, Tennessee Today will feature stories and videos based on comments about great faculty members submitted by students, alumni and others.

You can send a shout out to your favorite faculty member or read what others have written.

Also this week, area merchants will offer a variety of discounts for UT faculty.