Murphy Award winner: Brad Benhart

April 30, 2012

Brad Benhart, clinical assistant professor of building construction management and 2012 Murphy Award winner. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

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Six exceptional teachers were honored with 2012 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Awards in Memory of Charles B. Murphy at the Faculty Awards Convocation on April 26. This week, Purdue Today will feature a profile on each of the recipients. Today, we focus on Brad Benhart, clinical assistant professor of building construction management.

As a 20-year veteran of the construction management industry, Benhart knows it's important for his students to be prepared for any scenario on the job.

That's why he focuses his teaching methods around real-world problems and challenges his students to solve them.

"The first step is understanding the technical issues associated with a project.  This is naturally easier for the students to understand," Benhart says. "It is much harder to teach the communication, leadership, coping, negotiating and teamwork skills that are also required. I don't just want to tell our students war stories -- I want them to be able to look at any problem and truly understand all the problem-solving skills, both technical and people-related, required to solve it."

Appointed to the building construction management faculty in 2009, Benhart works with industry partners and reflects on his own career to come up with the dynamic scenarios he uses in his teaching.

Such techniques make his classes thoroughly enjoyable, according to anonymous student testimonials.

"I don't think there's been a teacher I've enjoyed more," one student writes. Another writes, "Professor Benhart does a great job relating to students and making them understand."

Benhart consistently pushes his students to explore new horizons. For example, last summer, he led a spring semester study abroad course to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where students were able to experience projects that dwarf any in the U.S.

"I have been blessed with many great mentors in my life," Benhart says.

"I try to share what they have done for me by giving our students the advice, direction and critical-thinking tools they will need in the future. Just telling them the right answer to a problem is a short-term solution. It's my goal to equip students with the skills they need to get past any obstacle. It is an incredible privilege to teach the next generation here at Purdue; I strive to not only be a teacher for them, but a mentor."