James Stice

James Stice, right, accepts the Lifetime Acheivement Award from the American Society of Engineering Education for his work in improving teaching effectiveness. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy of James Stice | Daily Texan Staff

James Stice, the Bob R. Dorsey Professor Emeritus in the Cockrell School of Engineering, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society for Engineering Education on June 16. 

The award recognizes his accomplishment on enhancing teaching effectiveness. Norman Fortenberry, the society’s executive director, said he was honored to recognize Stice’s achievement. 

“Dr. Stice is a pioneer in engineering education,” Fortenberry said. “He inspired and mentored multiple generations of faculty members.”

Stice taught in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering for a total of 28 years. During his early years as a faculty member, Stice said he founded and served as the first director of the Center for Teaching Effectiveness. This initiative, which was at first intended for new faculty hires in engineering, was quickly expanded for other faculty members across campus, according to Stice.

Although the the center was eventually closed, educational psychology professor Marilla Svinicki said it leaves a lasting impact.

“When [the center] was in place, it raised [awareness]…of the idea of general teaching skills,” Svinicki said. “It wasn’t something that a lot of people bought into at the time.” 

Svinicki, who has worked together with Stice for 15 years, served as the center’s director after Stice stepped down from the position to return to teaching full-time.

In 1991, Stice also co-founded the National Effective Teaching Institute under the American Society of Engineering Education. The institute offers workshops for engineering instructors.

Svinicki said Stice enjoyed working with students more than doing research during his time teaching on campus.

“He was the most curious person, always willing to try something new,” Svinicki said. “Students were always in his office talking to him. They remembered him.”

Thomas Truskett, chair of the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, experienced firsthand Stice’s passion for teaching. 

“I took a senior-level chemical engineering class from him in the ‘90s,” Truskett said. “He was always the professor that everyone wanted to take. He was able to give you a very realistic [picture] of how the things he was teaching you had an actual impact on the chemical engineering profession to this day, such as how chemical plants are built and how they work and what can go wrong.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misquoted Truskett about chemical plants and failed to refer to the chemical engineering department by its full name, the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, in his title. 

Today, upon my return home from Idaho, I read a very nice article on teaching and research. I was dean of the College of Engineering at UT from 1962 until 1969 and was the father of the “Teaching Effectiveness Program for Teaching Engineering Professors How to Teach their Classes.” The program was so successful that by 1970, it was adopted by almost every engineering program in the U.S. and is now used throughout the world. If we would compare professors to baseball players, you cannot be just a home run hitter or just a good fielder or just a good base stealer. You have to do it all. Research isn’t just lab research. Teaching isn’t “just teaching” because each teacher keeps up to date, through literature in his or her field, and this study is “research.” I had many faculty members who won national teaching awards for their classroom teaching and some of them never had a laboratory. When I was so highly honored with the Lamme National Engineering Teaching Award in 1976, I accepted with my challenge of a “Faculty Obligation,” which has since become accepted throughout the engineering teaching world as the obligation of the teacher to the student. Incidentally, we were all so proud when we learned that chemical engineering professor James Stice was named the Lamme Award winner of 2010. UT is the only university to have two winners, and more importantly, Stice is not a laboratory researcher. He spends 110 percent of his wonderful time in class or conferring with the students.

McKetta’s faculty obligation:
When one accepts a position as a university faculty member in any field, he should expect to write proposals for research, equipment and special projects; to publish articles, reports, papers and books and to keep up in his professional field; to serve on councils, boards and committees and to maintain the best possible relations with alumni, legislators and the business and industry of the region — in short to be a responsible member of the community and to participate in many of its activities.

But we must always know that these many activities must never overshadow our greatest concern: the student! If our responsibilities to, and concern for, the student ever becomes secondary, we will be violating the trust we accepted when we joined the faculty.


John McKetta, Former dean of the College of Engineering