Engineered for Success: Creating a Classroom Beyond Four Walls
At Valpo, our faculty members have a true passion for teaching. Their dedication to providing our students with the most comprehensive education possible is unmatched, and their level of expertise in their respective fields is impressive. Jay Grossman, Ph.D., P.E., assistant professor of civil engineering, reflects on the path that led him to becoming a professor at Valpo’s College of Engineering and how his realized commitment to teaching allowed him to do what he loves every day.
“I worked for a consulting firm right when I got out of school, and that was alright,” Professor Grossman said. “I liked the design side of things, but consulting was not exactly my cup of tea and what I enjoyed doing was teaching the new hires and bringing them up to speed.”
Teaching was ultimately Professor Grossman’s true vocation, so he decided to go back to school and earn his Ph.D. He did not stop working at the time, so it took him a total of 10 years to achieve his degree, but when he did, he never looked back. Though he loved the actual fieldwork involved in his consulting job, he knew he would be more fulfilled as an educator.
“I remember this job at Valpo came up in fall of 2017,” Professor Grossman said. “It was a visiting assistant professor, which was a temporary position, but I went for it. When I came to Valpo what really struck me was how focused we are on the teaching. Yeah, we do research but it was mostly all about the teaching. I think that has been a good fit for me, because I value it so much.”
Professor Grossman’s dedication to teaching has been realized in the form of the campus teaching excellence award for mentoring and advising. His methods have paid off as he sees his students succeed and visibly engage in the course material.
“I’m starting my seventh year at Valpo and I had a professor once tell me; if you think this class is boring try teaching it 20 years in a row!” Professor Grossman said. “But I still find it interesting, the interactions with the students. My pedagogy, my new teaching ideas were not setting the world on fire, but I love making those connections with my students and seeing them learn and excel.”
As a part of that learning process, Professor Grossman led a Study Abroad trip over the summer that covered historical and modern architectural structures in London, Cambridge and Edinburgh.
“The most memorable part of my Study Abroad experience was getting to go up in the Shard and meet with engineers who had a part in making the building a reality,” Carly Schiene ’24 said. “The Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe and a staple of the London skyline. Getting to hear from individuals who engineered the building and talking with them was an incredible experience and I gained a lot of knowledge.”
Professor Grossman had reached out to colleagues who are employed by WSP, the second largest consulting firm in the world, and asked if they knew anyone that could give him and his students a tour around the Shard, as well as other engineering sites on their trip. Within 24 hours, the lead engineer on the design team at the Shard had contacted him and let him know they would love to host them in the building for a presentation and tour.
“My favorite part of the trip was speaking with the engineering firm WSP about their design and construction of the iconic building The Shard,” Todd Wagner ’26 said. “I learned how engineers address a problem and brainstorm solutions for unique building problems. We were able to travel to the top of the building and see a breathtaking view of London. Up there, we spoke with one of the chief engineers who designed The Shard.
Students gained a dynamic world view of engineering while experiencing a new culture and seeing a different way to do things outside of the lectures in class. Professor Grossman was keen on providing the best possible experience for his students, and he showed his group of travelers that hands-on learning and engaged education does not always need to be confined to a classroom.
“I would definitely recommend this trip to other students, especially civil engineering majors,” Carly said. “I felt that it was incredibly enlightening and I enjoyed that everything was planned out for me.”