Professors Who Know Your NameEngineering professor Hector Estrada takes his teaching personally
Professor Hector Estrada likes to present students with problems that require collaborative problem-solving, providing guidance throughout the process.
"The focus on students is what really drew me to Pacific," says Hector Estrada, a structural engineering professor in the School of Engineering and Computer Science. Estrada says he has taught at large institutions where, although there as an emphasis on teaching, classes were very large and research was a higher priority. He says he likes teaching at Pacific because it's truly student-focused.
Estrada takes his teaching personally. "If a student misses a class, I get in touch with them to find out why they missed," he says. If a student falls behind, Estrada asks them to his office to figure out how the student can catch up.
"I've never had a class more than 30 students," he says. "It's usually around 10-20." That makes it possible to really get to know each student and to have a dynamic classroom.
"Engineering is very problem-solving oriented," he says. When students aren't engaged, it's like teaching to an empty classroom. Estrada says that he likes to present students with a problem statement and sketch out a solution process. He helps guide them through the process, encouraging them to work together with other classmates to strategize solutions. With small classes he's able to take the time to help the students through the process of discovery. Then he assigns homework to build on what they've already learned in class.
Estrada speaks highly of the engineering school's Cooperative Education Program, which gives students the ability to get paid, practical engineering experience while working toward their degree.
"The Co-op brings real-world experience into the classroom," Estrada says. "If we're talking about something in class that coincides with the type of work a student is doing in their Co-op, we can have them elaborate on the aspects of their work that relate to the problem. It really makes it come to life."
"We also help students develop independent study projects," Estrada says. Recently, one of his students did part of his Co-op work on an area of foundation engineering. The student wanted to do research on buildings with foundations on soils that are typically problematic. Estrada helped him created a research project using a campus building that had a crack in the foundation. Under Estrada's supervision, the student spent the semester researching the building's structure and the underlying soil, and coming up with a proposal for a solution to the problem. He wrote a report and made a formal presentation of his proposed solution to the dean, in the same way he would make a proposal to a client.
"It was great experience for him," says Estrada. "He got to do a lot of problem-solving and a lot of writing, which is really important. He learned a lot; and I learned a lot myself."