Ram Krishnan, assistant professor in the College of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, knows what it takes to be a good teacher.
“Thinking back, at every stage in my student life, all the way back from middle school, I can remember at least one person from each stage who really was a rock star teacher and who defined my thinking approach during that time. Those teachers made me who I am today,” Krishnan said. “And I want to be like them. It is just amazing when someone has put in the effort and time to figure out a complicated topic, and present it in a way that one can easily understand. A great teacher provides you the information you need to advance your own knowledge.”
And taking lessons from his former mentors, Krishnan himself is now leading the way in teaching excellence. The University of Texas System named him as one of the recipients of the 2015 Regent’s Outstanding Teaching Award. And as a Regent’s winner, Krishnan will also be inducted into the UTSA Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars in September.
“I’ve had Dr. Krishnan for two classes now, and have learned so much from him,” said Barbara Davila, a graduate student in the College of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “He presents the material in such a way that it will stay in your mind. He walks into class with such a smile that it deems him a perfect balance of respect and approachability. If it had not been for his class, I would have not realized the joy in programing. His teaching philosophy inspires and he is an outstanding professor and there is no one that deserves this award more than him.”
Offered annually in recognition of faculty members at the nine academic and six health University of Texas System institutions who have demonstrated extraordinary classroom performance and innovation in undergraduate instruction, the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards are the Board of Regents’ highest honor. With a monetary award of $25,000, the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards are among the largest in the nation for rewarding outstanding faculty performance.
Faculty members undergo a series of rigorous evaluations by students, peer faculty and external reviewers. The review panels consider a range of activities and criteria in their evaluations of a candidate’s teaching performance, including classroom expertise, curricula quality, innovative course development and student learning outcomes. A thread running through Krishnan’s evaluations is that he is a great communicator in the classroom.
“Even just talking to someone you know very well, it can be hard to communicate,” Krishnan said. “And trying to communicate with a general body of a student population – it takes a great amount of creativity and effort. And when you are successful – it is just one of the happiest moments when you see the face of a student and you can tell that they understand.”
Craig Rodriguez, UTSA graduate and telecommunications engineering with Texas Utility Engineering One who took classes with Krishnan, said that one of the most important and impressive attributes to Dr. Krishnan’s style of teaching lies in his patience.
“Although the curriculum was quite difficult, encompassed much information and concepts, and, in the case of the Android App Development class, was brand new, Dr. Krishnan took the time to make sure every student in his well-attended lectures understood the concepts clearly before moving on,” said Rodriguez. “He has an exceptional ability to take complicated, murky notions and make them clear concepts. Dr. Krishnan is a remarkable educator of the highest caliber and his dedication to true understanding in his students is a rare gift to all Roadrunners fortunate enough to learn from his guidance.”
In addition to being passionate about teaching, Krishnan is also passionate about his research, and he tries to integrate both of these aspects together.
“Your teaching informs your research, and your research informs your teaching,” he said. “Sometimes it is the some of the most simple questions that students pose that can lead to really interesting research questions. I tend to think in one way, and it is great way to get the students’ perspective.”