For Yaping Wang, a newly promoted Instructional Associate Professor in the Industrial Engineering Department at the Cullen College of Engineering, the fulfillment she received from teaching became apparent as she was finishing her own studies.
“Teaching as a Ph.D. student at Texas A&M opened my eyes about what impact I can make as a teacher,” she said. “I love Texas, and I wanted to pursue my teaching career and raise my family in this amazing state. The University of Houston was my number one choice because its Industrial Engineering program is highly ranked, and the Cullen College of Engineering and university offer great faculty development resources and support for instructional faculty. I was fortunate enough to get the Instructional Assistant Professor position before graduation. Now looking back to my six years at UH, I’m happy to say that it was one of my best decisions I made in my life.”
Wang joined the university in 2016, after completing her doctorate at A&M. She is also the Director of the Industrial Engineering Undergraduate Program, a role she took on in July 2020.
Wang attributed the decision to join UH, and her success at the school, to several different people.
“My Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Erick Moreno-Centeno, encouraged me to apply and believed that I had what it takes to become a successful instructional faculty,” she said. “Our department chair Dr. Gino Lim has been providing tremendous support in my current roles. Without his guidance and motivation, I would not be able to be where I am today. Dr. Suresh Khator has generously provided constructive input and feedback for several program development projects, including the revamp of the BSIE/MBA dual program. I’m also very grateful for all the help and mentorship from Drs. Randal Sitton and May Feng throughout the years.
She added, “My husband is also my best friend, and he gives me the most encouragement and support during challenging times at work.”
Beyond her promotion this year, Wang won the Industrial Engineering Shiny Nut Award in 2017 for demonstrating the most student engagement throughout the year. In 2021, she received the Cullen College Teaching Excellence Award recognizing her outstanding teaching and service to students. Earlier this year, she was recognized by the Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineering (IISE) with an Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award in Region 5. In the classroom, Wang stresses the importance of open communication, as well as providing students multiple ways to get help.
“Don’t set your expectation too high when you teach a course for the first time,” she said, when asked what tips she would give to teaching assistants and other professors. “A good teacher is made, not born. Effective teaching only becomes a reality when you constantly reflect on and learn from your mistakes, analyze what worked, what didn’t and what can be improved, and adjust teaching methods and strategies based on course nature and students’ constructive feedback.”
“Most engineering students don’t feel comfortable asking during class. Create multiple communication channels for students to ask questions outside the classroom. Try to arrive each class 5 to 10 minutes early to chat with students and to make personal connections, and to let them know you are there to help and welcome questions. This will make them feel you are approachable.”
When asked what kept her motivated, Wang said it was all about finding “meaning and joy” through her work, and getting feedback from her students.
“The feeling of being able to enlighten someone’s mind and teach a subject that I am passionate about is compelling,” she said. “I spend time crafting engaging lessons. I always look forward to sharing my knowledge with eager learners. It is fulfilling to see students’ 'ah-ha!' moments after I walk them through the thinking process of a challenging topic, or when I read their teaching evaluation comments and 'Thank You' cards and email for a great semester.”