James Bisogni, CEE, Daniel M. Lazar'29 Award
In more than 30 years of teaching, Jim Bisogni has learned that students retain information better when they understand its purpose. "Many students seem to wonder why they are learning something rather than what they are learning," he says. "Therefore I like to give an introduction as to the importance and relevance of a topic before the details and analysis of the topic are presented."
Bisogni describes his lectures as interactive. He tries to get the class involved by asking questions, and he tailors them to different students. "I have learned to accommodate a wide range of student learning abilities so that students who are quick learners do not get bored and slow learners do not get lost," he says.
His effort is appreciated by the students. One year, an entire class lined up to shake his hand in thanks on the last day of classes.
When a student runs into academic difficulty, Bisogni doesn't pretend to have the answers. "I start with asking the student why they think they are struggling, instead of telling them why I think they are struggling," he says.
Bisogni says he sometimes must labor to convince students that learning how to use the course material is more important than their grades. But with such challenges also come rewards, like watching the bulb light up in a student's mind. "When a student says 'Yes! Now I understand,'" he says.
Bisogni regularly teaches at least two courses each year, both upper level and introductory, in addition to his long-standing role as director of graduate studies for the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "Having Jim Bisogni as a member of the CEE faculty is analogous to having a utility infielder on a baseball team: he is effective in multiple positions," writes School of Civil and Environmental Engineering director Len Lion in his nomination letter. "His consistent excellence across a diverse array of course topics is remarkable."
Bisogni developed entirely new content for one of CEE's introduction to engineering courses, CEE 113, renaming it Sustainable Design for Appledore Island. "The course material was very interesting and it was clear how this knowledge can be applied to real life situations," reads a student evaluation of the course. "Professor Bisogni was very helpful and more than willing to help us with our project. I feel like the final project was a perfect way to tie together the course material."
"Professor Bisogni gave a lot of information in this course, not just what we needed to do the assignments," reads another student evaluation, from CEE 452, Water Supply Engineering. "He attempted to really bring the material into real life, and get the students to recognize how water treatment systems affect so many parts of our lives. He also was very helpful and patient."