That was Abi Aghayere’s reaction upon learning he is one of this year’s recipients of Rochester Institute of Technology’s prestigious Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching. Aghayere and other recipients will receive the award—which recognizes faculty excellence—during RIT’s Academic Convocation at 4 p.m. Friday, May 20, in RIT’s Gordon Field House and Activities Center.
The making of an outstanding teacher
“Dr. Abi is extremely deserving of this award,” says Maureen Valentine, associate professor and chair of civil engineering technology/environmental management and safety in RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology, where Aghayere is an associate professor. (Aghayere will be promoted to full professor this September.) “He is an excellent, passionate teacher, respected by his students and colleagues alike.”
Enthusiasm, patience and sound knowledge are but a few of the qualities Aghayere brings to his RIT classroom. He also stresses interactive learning and the integration of theory and practice using real-world examples—many stemming from his active outside consulting work. In addition to teaching at RIT, he is a senior structural engineer with the Brighton office of Stantec Inc.
Aghayere sets high standards for his students and for himself.
“I consistently reflect on my teaching and on student learning, and I have developed a continuous course-assessment mechanism to gauge my students’ level of understanding throughout the quarter,” says Aghayere, referring to a tool he created to measure and improve student learning using ongoing assessment of “intended learning outcomes.”
“I believe in a holistic teaching-learning approach and believe that students should be given the opportunity to develop non-technical skills—including teamwork, leadership and oral communication skills"".ord($0).";"ven in technical courses,” he continues.
Both inside and outside the classroom, Aghayere aims to be available, approachable, helpful and caring while serving as a mentor and positive role model. He strives to develop rapport with his students as he motivates and challenges them to learn and succeed in college and beyond.
“I view my students and myself as working towards the same goal of student success and excellence,” Aghayere says. “This motivates me to be the best teacher, mentor and coach that I can be. I believe my professional relationship with my students does not end when they graduate.”
Aghayere’s favorite courses to instruct are Structural Analysis, Structural Steel Design, Reinforced Concrete Design, Structural Loads and Systems, Timber Design, and Dynamics.
“Because my field deals with life-safety issues, I set high standards for my students and challenge them to work hard while helping them in every way I can,” Aghayere says. “In and out of class, I let my knowledge of and enthusiasm for the subject flow through to the students, creating in them intellectual excitement and the motivation to learn.”
Striving for excellence his entire career
Aghayere, originally from Benin-City, Nigeria, in West Africa, came to RIT in 1996. Previously, he was a structural engineer with Halsall Associates Ltd. in Toronto, a research associate in civil engineering at the University of Alberta in Canada, a teaching and research assistant at the University of Alberta, and a lecturer in civil engineering at the University of Ilorin in Nigeria. He earned a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Lagos in Nigeria, an S.M. in civil engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of Alberta.
At RIT, Aghayere developed the Structural Loads and Systems course and the Structural Design certificate program and he pioneered the development of online courses in civil engineering technology. He serves as the faculty associate for scholarship in the College of Applied Science and Technology—mentoring faculty by developing strategies to facilitate scholarship—and he chaired the college’s scholarship committee.
His own scholarship activity sets a positive example. Aghayere has written or co-written numerous papers, one of which earned him and co-author Wiley McKinzie, an RIT dean, the Best Paper Award from the American Society for Engineering Education in 2003. He is co-author of a revised edition of Reinforced Concrete Design, which is slated to be published next year. Aghayere also serves as faculty advisor to RIT’s steel bridge and big-beam competition teams.
“For me, teaching is not what I have to do, it’s what I love to do and, by the grace of God, I will continue to seek ways to enhance my students’ learning experiences,” Aghayere says.
Aghayere and his wife, Josie, reside in Henrietta with their four children. One of the couple’s daughters, Osa, is a first-year biology major at RIT. Another daughter, Itohan, has been accepted to attend RIT.
Note: RIT hosts its 120th annual commencement May 20 and 21. Academic Convocation, featuring an address by U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), begins at 4 p.m. Friday, May 20, in RIT’s Gordon Field House and Activities Center. This year’s Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching recipients will be recognized during the Academic Convocation ceremony.
RIT’s Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching was established in 1965 by the Eisenhart family to recognize faculty excellence. Winners are chosen through rigorous peer review of student nominations. The late M. Herbert Eisenhart, chairman and president of Bausch & Lomb Inc., was an RIT trustee for more than 50 years. Richard Eisenhart, trustee emeritus and past chairman of RIT’s board of trustees, has served on the board since 1972.