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Valparaiso University has named Mark M. Budnik to the Paul and Cleo Brandt Professorship, which promotes teaching excellence in the University’s College of Engineering, effective July 1.

Previously, the position was held by Eric Johnson, who became Dean of the College of Engineering in January. Johnson was named to the professorship in 2003 and has been a member of Valpo’s faculty since 1997. Budnik will also assume Johnson’s former role as chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“Mark is an outstanding selection for the professorship because he has a passion for teaching and is always looking for innovative techniques to educate our students,” Johnson said.

Budnik joined Valpo’s faculty in 2006 after a 16-year career in the electronics industry, bringing experience in engineering and engineering management. Budnik said training was the most rewarding aspect of his career, and he wanted to focus on engineering education. He fell in love with Valpo during his interview, and he said his passion for teaching and working with students grows every year.

As Brandt Professor, Budnik will research and develop innovative new education techniques and integrate them with Valpo’s engineering curriculum. He has begun to identify projects he would like to focus on, which include putting together a four-year program for students to cultivate soft skills throughout their education at Valpo.

“We’re really trying to renew our focus within the College of Engineering on how to intentionally develop creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership within our students,” Budnik said. “We want to have opportunities for our students to specifically focus on skills beyond their technical capabilities. These soft skills are going to take them beyond what the typical student is going to be able to do.”

Budnik said engineering education provides a vital opportunity to students preparing to solve problems in the 21st century. Valpo engineering students study and discuss how to define these problems and how to work collaboratively to solve the challenges that will face them.

While Budnik’s primary focus as Brandt Professor is working with students, he said he is also excited to work closely with Johnson to implement new education initiatives.

“The most important opportunity that I have as Brandt Professor is to continue to impact our engineering students’ education,” Budnik said. “I cannot imagine a greater opportunity for any professor to walk into, and I cannot imagine a place I’d rather work than right where I am now, with Eric and with the rest of my colleagues at Valparaiso University.”