Dr. Joel Lanning is currently an Assistant Professor of Teaching at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and was previously an Assistant Professor at California State University, Fullerton. Each appointment was within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE). He earned his M.S. and Ph.D. (2014), here, at UC San Diego in Structural Engineering and his B.S. in Civil Engineering from The Ohio State University. As a first-generation college graduate, Joel is passionate about undergraduate education that equips students with practical skills and abilities in engineering rooted in strong fundamentals. Through this, he strives to empower his students to better society and to fuel their socioeconomic mobility by becoming successful professionals. Professor Lanning has taught and developed courses and educational programs ranging from a hands-on high school engineering summer program (UC COSMOS) all the way through graduate-level courses in structural steel design and earthquake engineering. Joel is also the coordinator of the CEE Senior Capstone Design Program that engages 20 to 30 industry partners each year in delivering an intense two-quarter long internship-like experience to small groups of seniors. Additionally, he is the faculty advisor for ASCE UCI and the Steel Bridge, Concrete Canoe, and Timber Strong-Build student design competition teams. Dr. Lanning was elected twice as Secretary of the Faculty of the Samueli School of Engineering (SSoE) at UCI and has recently received the SSoE Early Career Faculty Award in Teaching Innovation. Finally, Joel serves as the ABET Faculty Lead in CEE at UCI where he is focused on bettering the programs’ continuous improvement processes and works with faculty across disciplines on assessment and accreditation related issues.
Structural engineering students are expected to have a well-developed understanding of structural design upon graduation. However, many students achieve only a low level of understanding and design abilities amounting to “plug-and-chug” and “being able with the table.” These student outcomes are simply not acceptable when it comes to designing structures that affect the lives of countless people. Rather, when students are able to learn fundamental design skills through solid conceptual understanding – like being able to follow the flow of forces – they will ultimately be better equipped to navigate more complex problems later on in their professional careers. In other words, undergraduates who can answer “why,” and not just (at best) “how,” should be better prepared for lifelong learning and growth in engineering.