Susan McCahan (2007)

mccahanAffiliation at the time of the award: University of Toronto, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

Citation: “The only appropriate gratitude I can express is in the fact that you have achieved a form of immortality: the knowledge I gained will stay with me and propagate through me for a long time to come” was one student’s comment in Susan McCahan’s thermodynamics course.

In the very first engineering course Susan taught, her global score on student evaluations was the highest in her department, and this was a class of 76 students. Susan has since graduated to classes of 1000, but she still retains admirable evaluations—despite implementing such innovative teaching methods as inquiry-based learning and community based design projects that challenge students to learn in non-traditional ways. “Simply monumental,” is a colleague’s frank description of Susan’s transformative work in the new first-year engineering design and communications course at the University of Toronto.

Whether she is teaching students how to analyze an aircraft engine or how to understand their own learning style, she demonstrates a combination of compassion, practicality and rigour, which actively disproves the clichés of traditionally male-dominated environments at top research institutions, and creates classroom climates welcoming all types of students. Susan has mentored the next generation of graduate students in teaching across the university, many of whom are now professors in Canada and beyond. In addition she is continuing her commitment to improving the learning experience for students through faculty development projects locally and nationally. Susan on-going contributions to student experience and faculty development are exceptional.