Brian Smith, teaching professor of civil and environmental engineering and earth sciences, is the recipient of the Notre Dame College of Engineering’s 2023 Outstanding Teacher Award.
The award honors an engineering faculty member, selected each year by undergraduates in engineering, for excellence in teaching and overall positive influence on student formation.
Students commented on Smith’s “thoughtful pedagogy, passion for his field, and engagement with students inside and outside of the classroom.” They noted his sense of humor and ability to make difficult concepts understandable.
Many students expressed appreciation for his confidence-building mentorship. One student noted, “Professor Smith recognized my potential as a future structural engineer — something I did not see in myself.”
Smith’s teaching philosophy is centered around high student engagement, and he uses cooperative learning strategies to help students apply what they’ve learned to their design projects. His preference for a “flipped classroom model” allows for more interactive and collaborative learning opportunities, which Smith believes are critical when teaching any engineering design course.
Smith teaches introductory engineering courses in the First-Year Engineering program as well as upper-level structural design courses for civil engineering and architecture students. He also serves as faculty advisor to Notre Dame’s AISC steel bridge team. Smith received Notre Dame’s Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (2017-18).
Students said they considered Smith a personal role model, embodying the Notre Dame spirit by educating both the heart and the mind. “Professor Smith lives a life not for himself but for everyone around him,” said one.
“A mere thank you is not enough to express the gratitude I know all his students feel he deserves,” said another.
Smith is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame (BSCE ‘01 and Ph.D. ‘13) and the Georgia Institute of Technology (MSCE ‘02).
— Karla Cruise, Notre Dame College of Engineering