Faculty perspective: Nathan Mentzer

Nathan Mentzer, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Technology Leadership & Innovation. In 2013, in only his fourth year in the college, he won two college-level teaching awards: Outstanding Faculty in Learning and the Dwyer Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award. The Dwyer Award is chosen by students.


Approach to teaching

I try to provide students with the opportunity to engage in the material so it is experiential and experimental for them. It’s about innovation – how do we think differently? Our future economy is going to be about being able to observe the world around us, see it differently, realize themes exist, and understand there are ways to make the world better. My research and courses focus on technology that provides opportunities to improve the human condition. I want students to know they can use their experiences in Technology to improve the world.  The philosophy of engaging students in the material rather than pouring it into their heads spans all of my classes.

How Technology is different

What sets us apart is our focus on design. It’s about seeing the world as an opportunity. We see issues around us and search for ways to make improvements. Our classes are going to be more practical, more applied, more hands-on. Our students make things work.  You could expect to see collaborations within the college and across the university. The work place will look like that, too.

Tips for student success

  • Don’t be afraid to fail, in experiments or projects. We can learn a lot from what doesn’t work.
  • Be persistent. If you do fail, try solving the problem in a different way.
  • Show up and participate.
  • Be ready to collaborate. Neither here nor in the future are you going to sit in a cubicle and not talk to anybody. Whether it’s a supplier or collaborator, you’ll have to work together.
  • Be able to interface with people from different cultures.
  • Be a critical thinker. You can take your understanding of existing solutions and reassemble them in a unique way to solve a problem.

Learning outside of class

Because Purdue is a research-intensive university, undergraduate students have the opportunity to engage in research that is at the cutting edge of their chosen field. Their understanding of that research and material gives them a leg up in the job market. I take students to international conferences so they can network with professionals, gain experience by giving presentations, and interact with other researchers to learn more about the academic discipline. Purdue values engagement with the community, and we actively look for opportunities that help us extend our reach. In the process, students get to practice what they are learning to do.

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