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“Educate the Educators”: A retrospective

August 1st, 2014 / By: / Updates

1994–1998 at Auburn University

For a week during five summers, 1994–1998, geosynthetic seminars were held at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., under the general title “Educate the Educators.” The host, coordinator, and facilitator was Prof. Dave Elton of Auburn’s Civil Engineering Department.

For each course, a series of 8–10 experts presented various topics (with accompanying notes) to class sizes averaging 27 faculty participants. The courses were under the general sponsorship of the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) and the geosynthetics industry.

In his April 1996 article in GFR magazine (now Geosynthetics), Dr. Elton wrote:

It is designed for professors who want to teach their own geosynthetics courses or else add related material to their classes. It also exists to give professors a geosynthetics background and design methods they can take back and use at their universities.

All of this happens during an intense, week-long series of seminars. The professors can then integrate the course notes into existing classes or make new courses dedicated to geosynthetics.

The net result: Professors will offer more instruction in geosynthetics and graduating engineers will be able to apply the knowledge after graduation.

Recently, about 20 years after the first of these courses, Jamie Koerner of the Geosynthetic Institute (GSI) conducted a survey of the faculty participants to evaluate the long-term impact of these courses. In five years, 136 faculty attended these courses.

Of the 136, 67 (40%) could
not be located due to:

retired or dead (38) 57%
no longer in academia (15) 22%
could not be located (14) 21%
= 100%

Of the 136 total, 69 (51%) were
located and were contacted
by email and telephone:

responded to the survey (51) 74%
did not respond (18) 26%
= 100%

The tabulated responses of the 51 faculty answering the survey are on page 58. Major conclusions gathered from this five-year effort include:

  • Forty-six of the faculty (90%) were teaching in U.S. universities.
  • Twenty-one (41%) taught geosynthetic course(s) at their universities.
  • Forty-nine (96%) used information from the summer courses in existing
    courses at their universities.
  • Twenty-one (41%) currently do, or have done, geosynthetics research.
  • Reflections by the participants were invariably positive with most recommending a continuation course especially for new faculty.

In closing, it should be noted that a North American “Educate the Educators” program is tentatively set for the summer of 2015. The North American Geosynthetics Society (NAGS) will be the convening authority while the Geosynthetic Materials Association (GMA) and IFAI will serve as channels for grant applications to support the effort.

Bob Koerner, Ph.D., P.E., NAE, is director emeritus of the Geosynthetic Institute in Folsom, Pa., and is a member of Geosynthetics magazine’s Editorial Advisory Committee.
GSI: +1 610 522 8440

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