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Courtney Faber, research assistant professor and lecturer in the Cook Grand Challenge Engineering Honors Program, teaches first-year engineering courses, which allows her to interact with students during one of the most important points in their academic career.

“I really like working with [first-year students] because they’re transitioning into determining what they want to do in their future,” Faber said.

A passion for engineering education also drives Faber’s research, which is focused on the ways engineering education can evolve to better serve students.

To do this, she divides her research into three areas: understanding students’ identities as researchers, examining how they acquire knowledge, and discovering the broader goals and actions students hope to accomplish through their engineering education.

The result of this research is the development of a new kind of engineering education, one focused on holistic goals rather than just technical know-how.

“My main goals are to study and impact the education of engineers,” Faber said. “That includes how engineers are taught and ways to support them in developing not only technical skills but also communication skills, teamwork skills, and looking at how to solve complex problems.”

For Faber, creating a better system of engineering education means rethinking the discipline altogether.

“One thing I’m very passionate about is expanding the view of what it means to be an engineer,” she said. “I think a lot of people have an initial belief about who engineers are and what it means to be an engineer.”

What it means to be an engineer is much broader than it used to be, and the challenges that we need our students to be able to face are not just technical problems but also societal problems.”

Outside of her work with UT, Faber spends a lot of time in the community.

“It’s really important to both my husband and I that we are plugged into different communities within Knoxville and that we are able to pour into the lives of others,” she said. “So that includes having people over for dinner or to play board games or meeting up with people outside of our home.”

This community-mindedness is something that carries over to Faber’s relationship with her students.

“One thing I really enjoy about working here and getting to work with first-year students is having the opportunity to talk to them about their concerns and the challenges they’re facing,” she said. “How I approach service is: I look at what the needs are in the communities that I’m part of and how I’m uniquely positioned to fill and support those needs. To me, the Volunteer spirit is using your platform and your influence to positively impact those around you.”