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Civil engineering professor receives junior faculty Teaching Innovation Award from FAMU

Story by
Trisha Radulovich
dulebenets
Maxim Dulebenets, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, received the 2021 Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) junior faculty Teaching Innovation Award (TIA).  (Photo: FAMU-FSU Engineering/M Wallheiser)

Maxim Dulebenets, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, received the 2021 Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) junior faculty Teaching Innovation Award (TIA). 

The award recognizes outstanding faculty members who explore and implement nontraditional teaching strategies, approaches, techniques or tools to produce measurable gains for student outcomes. It exemplifies the efforts of the teacher to explore new ways of teaching, impacting the students to think critically. Dulebenets is a FAMU faculty member at the joint college, where he instructs engineering students from both FAMU and Florida State University.

“The civil department has been blessed with many outstanding teachers: this is our third university-level teaching award in as many years,” Lisa Spainhour, professor and chair of the college’s civil and environmental engineering department, said. “Dr. Dulebenets has been a great addition to the team. Students respond very well to his teaching style and love his courses.”

Dulebenets was selected from a group of university-wide finalists for innovations used in teaching his online course on “Freight Terminals and Distribution Facilities.” The award is given to one junior and one senior faculty member each year. One of the innovations Dulebenets made in his online course was to create a flexible delivery system for the students.

“Online courses are generally more flexible when compared to face-to-face course delivery,” Dulebenets said. “Most professors post some lectures in an online portal like Canvas and then unlock the assignments once students review certain materials. In my course, I unlocked the entire course and automated assignments from the first day of classes to give students flexibility.”

Dulebenets recommends students not wait until the deadline to complete things because it could negatively affect the quality of their final product. He suggests students get into a “healthy habit” to get things done before the deadline and move on to something else.

“I try to be cognizant that my courses are not the only things students are working on,” Dulebenets said. “Senior undergraduates have intensive senior design projects, while graduate students are generally involved in tedious projects sponsored by different agencies. I believe the students really appreciate the flexibility for course assessments.”

Dulebenets likes to engage students with discussion boards and visual aids such as videos and photos. He also teaches students to think critically.

“After giving a certain number of lectures on a particular subject I distribute a number of papers published in leading international journals,” Dulebenets said. “Their assignment is to review the papers, answer questions regarding the methodology and find limitations in the conducted work.”

Dulebenets explains, “Critical evaluation of journal papers facilitates critical thinking and also allows students to identify research areas where they can contribute their ideas.”

“Dr. Dulebenets was an early participant in our online program and has developed several new courses in the area of freight and transportation,” Spainhour said. “This has opened up an important new area for our students. Both his online and face-to-face courses are well organized and make challenging subjects accessible and fun. He loves his students and he loves teaching. It’s wonderful that he is being recognized for his contributions.”