Dr. Ben Wu Named A 2015 SEC Faculty Achievement Award Winner

Dr. X. Ben Wu, a Professor of Ecosystem Science and Management, John Kincaid University Professor for Undergraduate Teaching Excellence, and Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence, is a recipient of the 2015 Southeastern Conference Faculty Achievement Award.

One faculty member from each SEC university who has excelled in teaching, research and scholarship is selected each year for the award.  Each award winner will receive a $5,000 honorarium from the SEC.

Dr. Wu is an exceptionally effective teacher at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Tireless innovations in teaching have been a hallmark of his efforts. 

He teaches RENR 205 Fundamentals of Ecology and has worked with about 8,000 undergraduate students in the course over the last 20 years.  He uses online adaptive exercises and weekly quizzes to help students develop content mastery and a Socratic approach and active learning activities in class to engage students and facilitate conceptual understanding and skill development. He has also developed two 4-week long web-based authentic ecological inquiry projects (BearCam and VEI) that help students understand the nature and process of science and develop critical thinking and communication skills.    

His demanding yet popular graduate course ESSM 660 Landscape Analysis and Modeling has had over 270 graduate students from 19 departments in seven colleges/campuses.  He uses a blended approach with online learning modules coupled with collaborative learning activities in class, discussions of current literature and use of his own published works to bring additional insights to the scientific inquiry process, extensive hands-on lab exercises, and group projects based on students’ own research, and preparation of project reports as journal manuscripts with a peer review process. 

He is also a dedicated and effective mentor of graduate students and postdocs.  He has advised or co-advised 15 PhD and 16 Masters students and mentored three postdocs.  Because his scholarly expertise and reputation as a mentor, he has been a sought-after graduate committee member and served on the committees for 88 graduate students (55 PhD and 33 MS) from 7 departments in 5 colleges/campuses.  He has also been an advocate of diversity in our graduate program and served as the Project Director of the Sloan Minority PhD Program in Ecosystem Science and Management. 

Students often comment how Dr. Wu’s passion for teaching and contagious enthusiasm for the subject motivated them to learn, and how his genuine care for students’ learning and exceptional abilities to engage students with effective and innovative pedagogies facilitated and deepened their learning.  

The central theme of Dr. Wu’s research has been landscape ecology – exploring the interactions between spatial pattern and the ecological processes and their implications for natural resource conservation.  He has acquired over $4,830,000 research funding as PI or co-PI and published with his collaborators and graduate students 77 peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters.  He has given over 70 invited talks and served on five journal editorial boards. 

In recent years, Dr. Wu has expanded his research efforts into the areas of scholarship of teaching and learning, striving to integrate and harness the synergy between his efforts in teaching and research.  These efforts not only test the effectiveness of his innovations and guide his teaching, but also better our knowledge of teaching and learning and benefit many other educators. 

Dr. Wu’s efforts has also impacted our teaching mission at departmental and university levels and beyond. He led the efforts to develop the BS degree program in Ecological Restoration, the online Master of Natural Resource Development degree program, and the Honors program in ESSM; co-chaired the university’s QEP Committee that developed the institutional Quality Enhancement Plan, Aggies Commit to Learning for a Lifetime, for the reaffirmation of SACS accreditation of our University; and served on the National Academies’ National Research Council Committee on Barriers and Opportunities in Completing 2- and 4-Year STEM Degrees.

He served as Associate Dean of Faculties and Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence in 2009-2014.  In this role, he led our faculty professional development in teaching efforts to improve teaching practice and enhance student learning.

“I am proud to join the SEC and its academic initiative, SECU in recognizing Dr. Ben Wu as the 2015 SEC Faculty Achievement Award winner for Texas A&M University,” offered Provost Karan Watson. “Ben has made sharing his passion and philosophy for excellent teaching a cornerstone of his scholarly impact for both students and colleagues alike.”

The SEC Faculty Achievement Awards and the SEC Professor of the Year Award are both selected by SEC provosts, and the program is administered by SECU, the academic initiative of the Southeastern Conference. SECU serves as the primary mechanism through which the collaborative academic endeavors and achievements of SEC students and faculty are promoted and advanced.

The full SEC announcement regarding the 2015 SEC Faculty Achievement Award, including the names and titles of the other recipients, can be viewed on the SECU site.

Read more about Dr. Wu on the agrilife.org/today website  http://today.agrilife.org/2015/05/05/texas-am-ecosystem-science-and-management-professor-earns-recognition/