Unparalleled connections between faculty and students

Jessica Townsend, Ph.D., Interim Academic Vice President for External Engagement

"As an Olin professor, I am most inspired by my students. The passion they bring to the classroom, to the lab and to impromptu discussions in the dining hall really adds to the dynamic, fun and occasionally quirky culture at Olin. I chose Olin becasue I have a passion for teaching engineering. The best hours of my day are those spent in class with my students or in the lab with my research assistants or just talkig with a student who has come up with the next big world-saving idea. This is Olin a nutshell, and this why I am here."

Q: Describe a favorite, recent Olin memory:

I accompanied the Olin SAE Baja vehicle team to El Paso this spring for their competition. There was a sandstorm while we were there and I ended up holing up with six Olin students inside an SUV for 3 hours while we waited for it to blow over. In those 3 hours we told funny Olin stories, dissected key aspects of the Olin curriculum, and came up with a bunch of ideas for new things to try. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referred back to those discussions in the last few months as we develop new curricular experiments. The fact that getting stuck in a car for an afternoon with Olin students was a highlight of my year is a great example of how connected students and faculty are at Olin.

Q: What do you like most about teaching?

I like creating a learning environment that gives students opportunities to stretch themselves intellectually. The cycle of creating a new activity or project, trying it out, seeing how it worked and getting feedback, and then making it more awesome for the next time can get additive. I often think about how each aspect of what students do in my classes can be improved. How can I give them more flexibility in what they choose to work on? How can I provide better scaffolding them to support their newly learned skills? How can I make things more interesting, more fun, more challenging? 

Courses Taught: Modeling and Simulation of the Physical World, Thermodynamics, Transport Phenomena, SCOPE