There aren’t enough hours in the day for this year’s recipient of the University of Houston’s George Magner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Academic Advising.
Christopher Chung, associate professor of industrial engineering (IE), couldn’t feel more honored for this recognition of his efforts outside the classroom.
As director of the Industrial Engineering Undergraduate Program, Chung monitors degree programs, evaluates students wanting to enter the college and meets individually with more than 100 students each semester to help them decide which courses to take. And, yes, he still teaches two courses a semester and conducts research activities.
“It’s very interesting to receive this award, and I am truly honored,” Chung said. “People who do this job certainly don’t do it for the recognition. It takes a lot of time and effort to meet with every student in the department. It’s very gratifying.”
Chung has seen a lot of changes since taking over as program director in 1999. He completely revamped of the curriculum within the department as well as the course descriptions offered in the student catalogue because, he said, some of the course descriptions didn’t match the courses. The same was true for course numbers and titles.
“One of the first things I did was reorganize the curriculum. I did it based on feedback from students who had graduated and had gone into the workforce,” he said. “I also incorporated suggestions from the advisory board.”
Those suggestions have affected the structure of many classes within the department. After speaking with a former student who had been denied a job because he lacked knowledge on a certain subject, Chung said that a two-course sequence was split into three separate courses. Chung taught two of those three new courses to support the new curriculum.
“We have to look at what’s going on in the marketplace and how our graduates are perceived,” he said. “Based upon that, we have to make sure our students get the best possible education and are as competitive as they can be.”
Achieving those goals can be difficult. Oftentimes, students fall behind in their coursework because they underestimate the time it will take to fulfill requirements. Transferring students from community colleges or other universities think once they have taken their core courses, like English and history, at community college, it will take just two years to fulfill the requirements of an IE degree.
“If you look at the courses one has to take to earn a degree in industrial engineering, you will clearly see that it takes a lot longer than that. There is no way to take all the required engineering courses in two years,” Chung said. “It is a very serious problem that we’ll have to work on.”
More coordination and communication are essential to solving the problem, and Chung is up to the challenge. The rest, he said, is up to students.