Prof. Doug Ernie Receives George W. Taylor Award for Distinguished Teaching

In recognition of his exemplary service and dedication to the enhancement of the educational experience of our graduate and undergraduate students, Prof. Doug Ernie has been awarded the 2019 George W. Taylor/CSE Alumni Society Award for Distinguished Teaching.

The George W. Taylor Awards are endowed within the College of Science and Engineering in memory of George W. Taylor, a 1934 graduate of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Established in 1982, the award for Distinguished Teaching recognizes outstanding contributions to undergraduate and/or graduate teaching.

Over his 37-year career at the University of Minnesota, Doug has demonstrated his deep commitment to teaching, innovation, and mentoring not only students in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, but also those across the University. He has placed his students at the center of all his teaching oriented endeavors, be they in the classroom, or programs directed at improving the educational experience.

Improving Student Learning Outcomes in the Classroom

As an instructor, Doug has taught classes that range from those offered at the sophomore level, to graduate level courses. Regardless of the level, he brings the same high level of dedication and enthusiasm to his classroom. He is routinely the recipient of outstanding teaching evaluations regardless of the type of class: large lectures, small group discussions, or laboratory experiences. A firm believer in the active learning pedagogy, he acts as a facilitator by encouraging thoughtful discussions among his students over the course material, rather than simply lecturing to them. He takes the active learning approach further by bringing in real world examples into the classroom, so students can relate concepts learned in class with their applications in technological artifacts that are commonly used.

Over his 37-year career at the University of Minnesota, Prof. Ernie has demonstrated his deep commitment to teaching, innovation, and mentoring students, placing them at the center of all his teaching oriented endeavors, within the classroom, and outside.

As one of the faculty leads in the department coordinating the capstone experience, EE 4951W (Senior Design), Doug has persistently endeavored to increase the number of industry-sponsored projects for our students, to expand their real-world experience. In addition to building their technical knowledge and skills, he is committed to honing their non-technical skills such as communication, and developing their sense of professional ethical practice. Doug ensures that there are opportunities for guided written and oral presentations, supported by peer review workshops. More recently, he drew faculty from MIN-Corps to expose students to methods such as Lean LaunchPad to propose and try out their designs.

Doug has actively worked on improving student learning outcomes by revitalizing the introductory circuits/systems and electronics courses, and by integrating the curriculum. The step was taken based on the benefit students would gain—increased retention of core concepts. Another change introduced for similar reasons was the redesign of our laboratories. Being deeply engaged in monitoring our students’ learning outcomes and making continuous improvements in our programs, Doug has (serving on ECE’s ABET Committee) successfully shepherded and assisted our undergraduate programs through the ABET accreditation review process in 2007 and 2013. He continues to lead the department’s ABET’s data collection, analysis, and program improvements in readiness for the upcoming review.

Encouraging Learning Outside the Classroom

In his commitment to enhancing students’ educational experience, Doug has worked to include opportunities that exist outside the traditional classroom. From 1997 to 2013, he coordinated two NSF funded summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs, one within ECE, and another with the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network. Focused on underrepresented groups, the programs aligned with his sustained commitment to expanding the diversity of the student body within STEM. The REU programs successfully encouraged many of the attendees to pursue graduate school, and motivated our students to pursue REU opportunities at other institutions.

In his commitment to enhancing students’ educational experience, Prof. Ernie has worked to include opportunities that go beyond the traditional classroom.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Doug has continued to explore and expand the educational opportunities that our students can draw on. Working with two other ECE faculty members, and the University’s Learning Abroad Center, he has developed a four week study abroad experience for our undergraduate students, in Kenya. Launched in 2015 under the title “Engineering in the Developing World,” Doug assisted in on-site orientation and lead instruction for the course in Nairobi, and oversaw the launch of course related field experience in Nanyuki.

Improving Access to Course Materials

Doug has been leading UNITE Distributed Learning as Director, since 1996. With his guidance, UNITE has improved the availability of graduate courses and programs to working professionals through distance learning. He has also augmented the learning experience for undergraduate and graduate students by making recordings of course lectures delivered in UNITE capable classrooms available to all on-campus students. In addition to this, UNITE’s online course option is now available to all on-campus students who have special circumstances or needs.

Service and Support

Among other student centered commitments, Doug has dedicated his time and energy as faculty advisor to the University chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers for three years from 2009 to 2011. He is also a founding member of the Dignity Project, engaged in supporting the advisor/mentor relationships of faculty and students, and a member of the Student Conflict Resolution Center’s advisory board.

Doug is also the recipient of the Outstanding Mentor Award (2010) by the President’s Distinguished Faculty Mentor Program, of which he is also a supporter and regular participant. He has also previously received the Morse-Alumni Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2016, and is currently chair of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers.

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering congratulates Prof. Doug Ernie on the Taylor Award. We are proud of him and thank him for his selfless service and dedication to the University’s educational mission.

Besides Doug, previous ECE recipients of the award include, professors James Leger, Stephen Campbell, and Ned Mohan