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Longtime ECE Professor Presented Inaugural University Honor
Erin D. McKenzie

Using narratives from his own industry experience, Stuart Long helps his students understand the practical applications of theoretical concepts. He strives to give them a deep understanding of his coursework through objects intended to offer that “real-world” connection and subscribes to an open-door policy, always encouraging of questions.

In his 35-years as an educator at the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering, his approach to teaching has won him the admiration of many faculty and students.

It is what led a handful to back his nomination, and why a faculty committe recognized the longtime electrical and computer engineering professor with the highest teaching award given by the institution.

Presented for the first time this year, the University of Houston Teaching Excellence: Career Award recognizes outstanding teaching by a tenured faculty member who has served the university for at least five years. Long was named the sole recipient of the inaugural honor, which carries with it a $5,000 monetary gift.

“I think he is in the lineage of Ross Lence and Lawrence Curry," said Dave Shattuck, chair of the University Teaching Excellence Award Committee who selected Long. “Those teachers were legendary in their committment to teaching and effectiveness in communicating. Stuart follows in their footsteps.”

Prior to his time at UH, Long was employed as an aerosystems engineer in the antenna design group of General Dynamics. He later served as a teaching fellow and then a research assistant in applied mathematics and physics at Harvard University where he earned his Ph.D. in applied physics. In 1974, he began his tenure at UH as an assistant professor, earning full professor in 1985.

Throughout his career with the university, Long has held several leadership roles that include an associate dean of the college, nearly 15 years as a department chair and interim dean for the UH Honors College. He presently serves as the university-wide associate dean for undergraduate research and the Honors College. Yet despite a career filled with administrative duties, he has managed to teach at least one course every semester.

“I wouldn’t feel like I was a professor if I didn’t have a class,” said Long. ”There is a satisfaction in teaching. It’s what I do and how I identify myself.”

Long describes his teaching style as “leading by example.” To Long, this means he arrives at class on time prepared for the day’s topic and makes himself available outside of class to help students develop effective study habits.

Beyond that, he works hard to instill interest in course material. This means breaking up sometimes rigorous courses on antenna engineering, electromagnetic wave theory, fundamentals of electrical networks and microwave engineering with powerpoint slides, applications relating to industry, lighthearted videos and even jokes.

“His lectures are a mix of real-world applications, theoretical discussions and a few laughs,” said Ellen O’Connor (2008 BSEE) who is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in applied electromagnetics under Long’s direction. “It is not unusual for Dr. Long to show up with a horn antenna, waveguide or a sample of dielectric material. This connection between textbook and real-world is what makes his courses so intriguing. It is clear he loves the subject and just wants everybody else to be as excited about it as he is. He is without a doubt the best teacher I have ever had.”

Just as he has touched O’Connor, Long has made a lasting impact on many he has encountered. Among those was Steven Collier (1976 BSEE), who credits Long with his success in the field.

“Dr. Long required students to learn not only basic concepts and essential principles, but also to synthesize new and useful results from them,” said Collier, vice president of business development for Milsoft Utility Solutions. “To have earned a good grade in one of Dr. Long’s classes was to learn how to learn. I consider his contribution to my education and outlook to be one of the formative factors in the considerable success I have had with a wide variety of employers and assignments throughout my career.”

While many who have taken his courses have been inspired by his efforts, dozens of others have been touched through several longstanding programs he is a part of at the university. Among these are individuals who have participated in the Electromagnetic Undergraduates (EMUG) program.

Launched by Long near the start of his tenure, the EMUG program offers research opportunities to talented undergraduates in the department. Through weekly seminars still in existence today, these students learn about research projects being completed by graduate students, attend conferences and work with faculty on their own research. Since its inception, more than 70 students have participated. Of these, close to half have gone on to pursue graduate degrees at UH in the field of applied electromagnetics.

Benjamin Fasenfest (2002 BSEE, 2004 MSEE), now an engineer for California-based Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is among those.

“Dr. Long’s wonderful explanations of complex phenomena allowed us to perform quality experimental research without graduate coursework,” said Fasenfest of his time as an EMUG. “He devotes time to training undergraduates on complicated test equipment such as network analyzers and antenna pattern measurement software. Under his guidance, I was able to design new antennas, simulate them on a computer then build and test them. His teaching and mentoring was the most important part of my undergraduate education and convinced me to make a career out of applied electromagnetics, his specialty.”

His work with youth does not stop here. For close to a decade, he has been an investigator on more than 11 external grants totaling more than $6 million. All are intended to advance education and include a weeklong summer camp to inspire high school girls to pursue engineering , a program allowing undergraduate students to participate in summer research, and an initiative aimed at partnering engineering graduate students with area teachers to help engage their students in physical sciences.

Accepted at the 31st Annual University of Houston Faculty Awards Ceremony April 22, Long’s most recent honor joins a host of others recognizing his teaching abilities including the UH Teaching Excellence Award, the Fluor-Daniel Faculty Excellence Award and the college’s Career Teaching Award.

Yet more than the money, trophy and recognition that came along with his most recent award, the chance to inspire others is the real reward for the veteran educator.

“Nothing is more fulfilling than teaching,” Long said. “My advisor at Harvard was an active faculty member there for almost 70 years. That’s my goal, to go another 35 years.”

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