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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Board of Visitors honors Holzer

By Liz Crumbley

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 02 - August 31, 1995

The Board of Visitors has named Civil Engineering professor Siegfried M. Holzer an alumni distinguished professor, a position held by only seven Virginia Tech faculty members at any time.

An alumni distinguished professorship is a permanent appointment, reserved for recognition of faculty members who have "touched the lives of generations of Virginia Tech alumni" through outstanding contributions to the university's instructional program. It provides financial awards and carries responsibilities, particularly that of teaching upon invitation in other departments and in university honors colloquia.

Holzer's teaching honors include the Sporn Award for Excellence in Teaching of Engineering Subjects in 1974, received just two years after he joined the Tech faculty.

Holzer's resume also includes election to the Academy of Teaching Excellence; the Wine Award; 10 Virginia Tech Certificates of Teaching Excellence; the Chi Epsilon National Teaching Award; the Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Civil Engineering Education; the Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia; and Virginia Tech's Diggs Teaching Scholar Award.

Holzer says, "Learning is a journey, not a destination." "After teaching for more than 20 years, I attended a workshop where I learned not to use the blackboard to transmit information."

So, he abandoned the blackboard and began delivering what he terms "mini-lectures" and handing his students course packs-condensed classnotes-with gaps left in the information. He divides the students into teams and guides their attempts to fill in the gaps and devise solutions to engineering problems.

"For students to learn, they must be actively engaged," he notes. "Learning is one of the few things that no one else can do for us."

Holzer also has entered the multimedia education field. He and Ph.D. student Rual Andruet have developed multimedia software for teaching statics engineering.

The National Science Foundation funded Holzer's development of the software as part of the Southeastern University and College Coalition for Engineering Education (SUCCEED) program. Since its release a year ago, the statics software has been requested for use by 51 faculty members from 31 universities. The program also can be found on the World Wide Web.

"Technology will drastically change how we learn and work, making those environments more stimulating and effective," Holzer remarks.

What most satisfies Holzer about teaching after all these years? "Two things. One is when I discover something and want to tell my students about it. The other is when they do the same, and are excited about what they've learned."