Exceptional Early Career Award winner: Cary Troy

April 17, 2014  

Cary Troy

Cary Troy, assistant professor of civil engineering, left, works with student Barnard Mondal in a lab in Hampton Hall of Civil Engineering. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
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In recognition of outstanding undergraduate teaching, two pre-tenure professors recently received the new Exceptional Early Career Award for tenure-track faculty. Purdue Today will feature profiles on both 2014 recipients today. This profile focuses on Cary Troy, assistant professor of civil engineering.

The moment his classes begin, Cary Troy's enthusiasm for teaching and engaging with his students is palpable.

Troy consistently receives this sort of feedback from his students, who say his warmth and ability to explain difficult concepts make him a standout teacher. For his part, Troy also constantly looks for ways to enhance his teaching by creating a student-centered, active-learning environment.

"There are so many aspects of teaching that I love," Troy says. "My favorite teaching involves working with students individually and in small groups. I really get a kick out of seeing them get excited, engaged and actively learning. If it were up to me, we'd all just sit in a coffee shop and work together on problems for the entire semester."

Since arriving at Purdue in 2007, Troy has known that the traditional structure of University classes -- in which a professor stands in front of a large class and lectures -- is not very engaging, he says.

Therefore, he's worked to incorporate in-class exercises, small-group discussions and multimedia into his classes, and he organizes his lectures and homework assignments around clear learning objectives. He also includes communications elements and student-produced homework solution videos and write-ups, because he knows students learn more fully when they must explain concepts to one another.

Troy also has benefited from formal efforts to innovate his teaching style. In fall 2013, he redesigned his large-enrollment hydraulics class through IMPACT (Instruction Matters: Purdue Academic Course Transformation), a campus-wide initiative to transform core classes and thus engage students more fully in their learning.

He also has participated in teaching workshops across the country, including one in 2009 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York.

In additions to his innovations in teaching, Troy serves as a research mentor to many of his students and an academic advisor to two to five students each year.

"A single positive research experience can motivate a lifetime of learning," Troy says. "It did for me, and for many of my faculty colleagues.

"For me, teaching and mentoring all comes down to helping students learn experientially. Oftentimes, my best teaching happens when I just stop talking and let students learn by doing. Seeing students' faces when they 'get it' is one of the most rewarding experiences for me as a teacher."

Writer: Amanda Hamon Kunz, 49-61325, ahamon@purdue.edu

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