Meet emerging research star: Carlos Mora

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Carlos and his youngest daughter, Estela.

Back in March 2019, I received an email out of the blue regarding a researcher in the Canary Islands, Dr. Carlos Efrén Mora, looking to recruit a mentor.

Specifically, Carlos wanted help writing a fellowship proposal to conduct Engineering Education Research on social responsibility, and he had contacted a Special Interest Group I work with as a member of the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI). This particular group studies Educational Research Methods and I’d mentioned at a meeting in 2018 that I was looking to help/host prospective fellows in Engineering Education Research.

Because Carlos was proposing a topic I have been studying for Engineers without Borders UK, I jumped at the chance to help. I emailed him right away and we set to work.

Carlos emailed me a copy of a proposal he’d previously submitted, and as I’ve successfully secured the funding under this scheme twice before, I reverted with more feedback and strategic advice.

Carlos and I worked tirelessly from March until the deadline for our target program in mid-September.

It was a grueling process, but Carlos is extremely hard-working. I must say that Carlos enthusiastically accepted every ounce of critique that I and my colleagues doled out, and he used it to improve his plans and ideas. The ability to welcome criticism is rare but so very important. It’s one of the most important skills I learned in architecture school! Carlos has it, too!

To make sure Carlos had the best chance to win funding, I assembled a team of superstar researchers and advisors. Their job: to poke holes in all his arguments and make sure the content was in the right places (ie, the places the evaluators will expect to find them while they are scoring his work).

I was elated with the results. In all, I believe we have an excellent chance of receiving funding to conduct research together–I as his mentor/supervisor/PI and he as a full-time research fellow working aside me at TU Dublin, hopefully starting in August 2020.

The text of the proposal is exceptional. The scientific merit is clear, the work plan is strong, the planned secondment is second to none, and the early-stage researcher has shown outstanding promise. He has a dedicated mentor by his side–one who is working hard to build her own research record and raise the visibility and credibility of EER globally.

Since we submitted in mid-September, Carlos has already secured some financial support from his own university to start some of the work.

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Visiting London’s Carnaby Street with the Mora family

Though al that is exciting, we are currently in the no-mans-land called the grant evaluation period. Researchers work for months on end to craft a research proposal. They send it off with the greatest of hope in their hearts. And then they wait and wait, and wait–often at least half a year–to hear back.

Typical success rates for the program we’ve requested run 9-14%.

What to do while waiting? Celebrate!

After we got the proposal submitted, Carlos brought his family up to London from the Canaries to meet me. Carlos and I held a work meeting on the first day of their stay.

This was the first trip off their Islands for the Mora kids, and I was delighted to be part of their big adventure. (The whole family has been getting excited about the possibility of spending a couple years in Dublin! They came to London this time since it’s where I am currently working.)

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Pre-dinner photo shoot. Beautiful food!

I planned one of the four days of their visit, and, as usual, I packed too much in. We all did new things–I’d never eaten Ramen before but Celia said it would be “a dream come true” so we all agreed!

Our lively chatter silenced when the food arrived for dinner.

We soon unanimously agreed again: we will be eating Ramen together again in Dublin ASAP. It was delicious!

The photo album below starts with a photo from the Canaries and another taken at the airport–Carlos sends me family updates regularly and it’s fun seeing the kids grow!

 

 

 

Architects Love School, why not teach engineers a similar way?

When I started studying “higher education” as a PhD subject at William and Mary in 2006, I wondered why architecture students seem so engaged–passionate and persistent–and why engineering didn’t use the same methods that seem so “sticky” and engaging.

I’m still asking these questions.

I explore them in the article “Using Architecture Design Studio Pedagogies to Enhance Engineering Education” which I wrote with John Marshall, The University of Michigan 
and Gavin Duffy, Technological University Dublin. It has been published for a while, and I just noticed that since the embargo period has ended, I can direct you to the final version instead of just the pre-press version! It was published by the International Journal of Engineering Education. 

https://arrow.dit.ie/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1117&context=engscheleart2

The abstract explains:

“Problem-Based Learning pedagogies that require high levels of inquiry and hands-on engagement can enhance student learning in engineering. Such pedagogies lie at the core of studio-based design education, having been used to teach architects since the Renaissance. Today, design assignments and studio-based learning formats are finding their way into engineering programs, often as part of larger movements to implement Student-Centered, Problem-Based Learning (PBL) pedagogies. This spectrum of pedagogies is mutually supportive, as illustrated in the University of Michigan’s SmartSurfaces course where students majoring in engineering, art and design, and architecture collaborate on wickedly complex and ill-defined design problems. In SmartSurfaces and other similar PBL environments, students encounter complex, trans-disciplinary, open-ended design prompts that have timely social relevance.

“Analyzing data generated in studio-based PBL courses like SmartSurfaces can help educators evaluate and track students’ intellectual growth. This paper presents a rubric for measuring students’ development of increasingly refined epistemological understanding (regarding knowledge and how it is created, accessed, and used). The paper illustrates use of the tool in evaluating student blogs created in SmartSurfaces, which in turn provides evidence to help validate the rubric and suggest avenues for future refinement. The overall result of the exploratory study reported here is to provide evidence of positive change among students who learn in PBL environments and to provide educators with a preliminary tool for assessing design-related epistemological development. Findings of this study indicate design-based education can have powerful effects and collaborating across disciplines can help engineering students advance in valuable ways.”

DOI

10.21427/D7V62S

Keywords

Problem-Based Learning, Student-Centered Learning, Design-Based Learning, epistemology, architecture education, design studio pedagogy, engineering education, cognitive development

 

Wedding Weekend with Nigerian-British Flair

Engagement photo of Folashade and Damilola.

My beautiful and intelligent colleague, Dr. Folashade Olayinka (who I traveled to Johannesburg with 1.5 years ago to teach a Master Class) decided to marry her beloved Dr. Damilola Olaniyi last weekend, so on Saturday, November 9, 2019, I headed for the Putney Bridge tube bright and early. It was a cold day, but bright and full of energy.

My own beloved Aongus walked me to the station. Even though the invite was just for one, he wanted to set me off on the right course for the weekend.

At Liverpool Street Station, I met up with my best Plus-None, Dr. Inês Direito, and we head off for Chelmsford by train, excited for a new adventure.

When we arrived in Chelmsford, our room wasn’t quite ready at The County Hotel, but we found space to change into wedding attire–with “Colours of the day” specified as “Emerald Green & Gold” we did our best not to clash!

We taxied from the Hotel over to All Saints Church on Church Lane, Writtle, Chelmsford CM1 3EN, UK for the Church of England ceremony, held in a historic venue and officiated by a pastor who delivered an informative lesson on love, and in quite an interesting way.

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The Nyamapfenes, Abel and Tari, with Inês and me at the church.

Our colleague Dr. Abel Nyamapfene had already arrived with his lovely wife, Tari.

Inês and I had a ball getting to know her. Considering we arrived at 12:20 and the bride marched down the aisle at 1:40, we had ample time to get to know each other–and I assure you we had a delightful time doing that in such a lovely and lively setting. I look forward to seeing Tari again some day.

During the ceremony, from my seat along the outer wall of the side nave, I was able to see the exchange of vows. I had never realized quite how much Neo-Gothic columns limit paritioners’ viewing angles. Thanks to my colleague Dr. Fiona Truscott, and the book she lent me on English architecture, “A Lust for Windowsills” by Harry Mount, I was able to discern that this church is, specifically, “perpendicular Gothic“. A nice treat to be in such a space for a celebration of marriage! I recognized the last song and happily sang along, despite being chronically out-of-tune.

Hylands House, the reception venue. (Photo copied from the couple’s wedding page.)

The reception was held at the beautiful and elegant Hylands House on London Road, Writtle, Chelmsford CM2 8WQ, UK.

 

Graduation pic of Dami and Shade. Doctors of Engineering!

At the reception, we learned many things, and we got to watch video of the wedding ceremony the couple had in Nigeria (prior to this ceremony here in England). Incidentally, the newlyweds were both born here in Britain, of parents born in Nigeria. They have lived here all their lives, but visit Nigeria frequently. I sometimes say Shade is the most British person I know!

During the toasts, we learned that Shade was born at University College London (UCL) Hospital, on the campus where she and I worked together until she moved to Queen Mary University of London. She completed all her higher education degrees at UCL. Her new husband, Dami, also earned his doctorate in engineering at UCL. In fact, the two met at UCL in 2011. Their subjects are slightly different, however, as Shade has a doctorate in Chemical engineer, while I believe Dami’s doctorate is in aeronautical engineering.

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The newlyweds

During the meal, Inês and I had the pleasure of sharing a table with the PhD supervisor for each of the two. Shade’s supervisor, Professor/Dr. Eva Sorenson had attended the SEFI 2018 conference with Inês and me in Copenhagen and I sat beside her at the gala of that event, just after she’d been recognized with the biggest award of the conference. I’m getting used to siting among the stars!

Both supervisors got specific call-outs from the couple and the family during toasts–how cool! It looks like you can make a real difference in someone’s life as their PhD supervisor. I hope that’s me someday. (My first PhD supervisee just passed the final threshold before his PhD viva, slated for August 2020–very excited about all that!)

Following dinner, a grand Nigerian buffet, we enjoyed cake and some dancing.

Eventually we headed by taxi for the hotel for some Zs.

 

 

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With Emanuela and family!

In the morning, we enjoyed breakfast with the happy couple and another of our beloved colleagues, Emanuela Tilley (who is currently away form us on maternity leave) along with her beautiful and energetic family. I get far too little time with Emanuela these days! Making every moment count here in England.

 

In the morning, we enjoyed breakfast with the happy couple and another of our beloved colleagues, Emanuela Tilley (who is currently away form us on maternity leave) along with her beautiful and energetic family. I get far too little time with Emanuela these days! Making every moment count here in England.

After a quick walk to the station and an easy train trip back to London, I made my way back to Putney to meet up with Aongus, who’d had to work Sunday, morning until noon.

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Flowers!

I arrived at the flat first, and when Aongus arrived he brought a lovely bouquet for me! I was delighted to find I’d been missed by this incredible man. It’s a pleasure to be surrounded with so much love and support.

Thanks so very much to Shade and Dami for including Inês and me in this–the biggest day of your lives. You make a lovely couple and you seem so comfortable and happy together. Your families seem so warm and supportive, and it looks like they provide great models for healthy interactions and long-lasting love. Your ceremony was beautiful and touching. The bridal party was full of vitality and was beautifully attired (love those bridesmaid dresses!). The toasts were heartfelt. The venues were such a pleasure to experience. The dancing, rituals, and outfits had a distinctly Nigerian flair that was a treat to behold.

It was all so beautiful and festive! And we were so lucky to be there!

#DaSh2019, 9.11.19

Bringing my Dad back into Focus

Losing a parent is emotionally difficult as I’m discovering each and every day. Others who have lost someone close provide the strongest sense of empathy–they know what we are going through and they offer shoulders on which to lean.

I truly appreciate all those who have sent a message or note, flowers, donations.

Those who gave their presence in these difficult days and made thoughtful gestures now hold a very special place in my heart. Those who made the kind effort to join us for Dad’s visitation, funeral, or interment helped provide a sense of confidence that tomorrow will be happier.

Through this blog post, I am bringing my Dad back into focus, if only for a moment. I aim to record my memories before they vanish.

Memories of our Dad

My dad, Donald Massie, truly loved to learn. This he passed to my sister (Heather) and me.

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Dad with Heather and me.

Dad always said Heather and I should try hard in school, for ourselves, not for him. “Your education,” he’d say, “is the only thing no one can take away.” …Bette Midler says it’s your dignity, but that actually can be taken, I believe!

Dad taught Heather and me many things, including how to guide our own learning—how to identify goals, determine what we wanted to know, and figure out how to accomplish learning it. Dad didn’t do our projects for us, as Heather pointed out at his funeral, but he was always there to help.

Dad was an extremely curious person, and he demonstrated his love of learning from the very start. As a small child, he read the Encyclopedia Britannica. This set of books occupied an entire shelf at my grandparents’ house, in all the years they owned it.

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Christmas 2017 or 2018: Shannon, Aongus, Heather, Danny, Glen, Dad, and Kitty Lee.

Even before Dad could read, he’d pour over the pages, avoiding whatever he could from the illustrations, my aunt Kitty told us in Dad’s final days, as we three–Heather, Kitty and I–gathered around Dad’s bedside, supported by the phenomenal nursing staff at Showalter Center and end-of-life experts from Carillion Clinic Hospice. Those were precious days we had together, and a priceless gift provided by those caring medical experts. Showalter’s culinary and administrative folks worked with us and nursing to make the week we had there together full of love and laughter. Dad was truly funny in the moments he could communicate; it was clear he’d built rapport with staff of all ages and backgrounds, and some of the residents like Sharon who became a fast friend to us all. Many of them came to call in Dad’s final week, and Heather helped connect to family via phone and friends and former colleagues who came to visit.

But back to the story of Dad’s lust for learning: he particularly loved reading Popular Mechanics and Scientific American, and any flying magazine he could get his hands on!

Dad also loved trying things out for himself. We learned to learn by doing, just as he had.

At the age of two, he’d observed how a gear shift worked and he gave it a go himself. He climbed up in the driver’s seat of the family Jeep and kicked the manual transmission out of gear. The Jeep rolled down the hill, wrapping around a tree, totaled. He clung happily to the steering wheel.

He’d also as a toddler, we are told, remove the screws from the furniture with his bare hands—so curious was he about how the chairs and table were assembled.

Growing up in the family farm in Fishersville, Virginia, provided many adventures for a kid with curiosity. Dad observed how to use a flexible tube to siphon liquid from a barrel. “No,” the doctor told my grandma, “he isn’t sick,” just a little drunk! Evidentially, that barrel contained hard cider.

Dad wasn’t the only kid in the family stirring up trouble.

Dad’s brother, Phil, was a few years older than him. One day Phil tied Dad to a tree while playing cowboys and Indians. Unexpectedly invited into town by their dad, Phil disappeared. When Phil remembered about my Dad, tied up to that tree, Phil kept mum. No one wanted to earn the ire of my grandad.

Dad spent the day there, strung to that tree.

Their family moved off the farm and into the city of Staunton.

Dad had a newspaper delivery route and he got to know my mom’s brother while doing that job. Dad played clarinet in the school band. He made friends he kept until the very end.

In high school, he got drafted. He got a limited deferment. He married my mom; he hurriedly completed a Bachelor’s degree—starting in Engineering but having to wrap up quickly to meet the limits imposed by Uncle Sam and thus shifting to Business.

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Dad with a newborn, me!

He and Mom decided to have a child before he shipped out for Vietnam, and I was born while he was in boot camp.

My sister came along, like clockwork, not long after his return. There are two-and-one-half years between us. The four lives of my immediate family were indelibly marked by that (senseless) war, in so many ways. Night duty and Agent Orange were particularly treacherous. Of course, I’d wish the whole thing away if I could, but I also recognize that, without that bloody war, Heather and I would not exist.

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Dad at work in Vietnam–so handsome!

In Vietnam, Dad served as an illustrator. In formation, fresh off the plane to Vietnam, his group of recruits was asked if anyone could draw. Hearing no other volunteers, dad put up his hand. Those years studying engineering made a clear difference.

Eventually, he combine that Business degree and illustrating experience, extending it with a Masters in Fine Art gained upon his return using the GI Bill. He subsequently worked as a photographer for the state of Virginia and then supervised the graphics department at the Vet School until his retirement, after 30 years with Virginia Tech.

I have to mention that Dad was the type of parent with kids in tow: he encouraged us to participate in clubs (especially 4-H where we learned so very much), band, and sports. He didn’t volunteer to run these events. He never attended a PTA meeting.

But he was in our corner nonetheless, cheering us on during every performance and award ceremony—and for those there were many.

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I was the friady-cat!

During childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, Heather and I spent many hours at Dad’s office—in the Annex during the 80s and the Vet School later on. We knew Dad’s colleagues well and we learned well from them. We were superbly advised and equipped for any art or photography project we could dream up. And dream we did.

I lived at home for university. Many lunchtimes during my Architecture studies were spent at the Ver School, surrounded by the professors and staff there–engaging in their enthusiastic lunch-time chat.

Many a night during my Bachelor’s and Master’s of Architecture programs were spent in the darkroom with Dad, rushing toward a deadline and/or creating photographic competition boards.

I adopted Dad’s drafting and jewelry equipment as my own. I learned 16mm film and to use 2.25 and 4×5 cameras. I passed on these skills, leading workshops and modules for Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies across my years there.

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Dad’s beloved Musketeer.

He took us and just about everyone we knew up flying. A particularly poignant memory is flying to the site I’d chosen for my Bachelor’s thesis project on Outer Banks of North Carolina. Two friends from architecture school came along, and we timed our landing, two hours out, so that we’d touch down at sunrise. What a glorious day we had, documenting and exploring the island, walking into its town from lunch, splashing in the waves.

The year before in my fourth year of architecture school, Dad and I had rolled up our sleeves and started building a two-seat airplane. We commenced this project in our living room. Dad, my sister, mom, and I had built this house for ourselves.

Soon, the project got too big and we had to construct a large greenhouse on the side of the house.

Dad kept working on that project after I’d completed two Architecture degrees and left town for employment, first in Switzerland (1996-1997) and then in Hampton Roads (1998-2014). Unfortunately, Dad was diagnosed with carcinoid cancer in 1997. It was slow-growing but took its toll nonetheless. The vets doing research on cancer helped dad determine the right dose of Vitamin C to take throughout the day to extend his life as long as it did. Dad beat it for 22 1/2 years beyond his diagnosis.

We never finished that plane-building project, but last spring we donated all it, along with the materials we purchased to help finish the project, to Bototeourt Vocational high school (BTEC). Here’s hoping they can finish it or at least learn from what we’ve done!

These memories–all these memories. I must keep them alive.

My sister also wrote a beautiful and sincere tribute to Dad, and I want to share it as well.

My sister’s tribute to Dad

Image may contain: 1 person, suit and closeup

Photo of Donald Rae Massie – high school senior photo

Donald Rae Massie, my daddy, the world is different without you.
I could always rely on you when I had a question about anything.
I always said that you knew everything. One of the sharpest people I have ever known. With a memory I can only dream of having.
And ready to crack a joke to the very last. You liked to laugh.

When I was a kid and you were watching 60 Minutes, you would yell “Andy Rooney” and I would run through the house, to sit with you and watch and laugh.
When Jay Leno would do Headlines, you would yell “Headlines” and I would run through the house, to sit with you and watch and laugh.
At Christmas when we would give someone in the family a Jeff Foxworthy book, we would all sit and read and laugh until we cried, tears of joy.
Thank you for the love you gave me for irony and for a good laugh.

You were always ready to lend a hand, to help, to teach, to share.

Any project Shannon or I worked on was made better by your advice, your lending of tools, and your guidance on how to use them. We have heard from so many others who have said the same.
We learned to use cameras, compose photographs, develop prints, build our house, use power tools, solve problems, love people of all cultures and backgrounds, and have become strong independent women

I recently learned something that makes me very proud. While you were not keen to fight in Vietnam, you did not try to avoid serving, as those who were able to do so were those who came from wealth and privilege, and those who could not were poor, less advantaged, or of color, and you chose to stand with them and to serve. I thank you for this, even though this service caused so many of the health problems which you so valiantly battled.

Thank you for the love you gave me for nature and beauty – sunsets and oceans and mountains and wildlife and for living.
Thank you for my love of science – of light, of stars, of geology, of space.
Thank you for my love of art – light, color, image, composition,
Thank you for my love of photography – observing, composing, capturing, creating.
Thank you for my love of music – listening, playing, singing, creating.
Thank you for my love of telling a good story – a love which serves me every time I step on stage to embody a character, or when I set out to write a play.
Thank you for my love of the written word, the spoken word.
Thank you for my love of flight, and the joy you gave so many by taking each of us with you soaring through the skies.

What shall I do without you?
But to hold those good parts of me that you gave me and to nurture them.

You wanted every single second of life that God would give you, and your strength was a testament to everyone who had the honor of helping you in your last days. It shall stand for me as a light and way forward to value every minute that I have in this life.

Painting by Donald Rae Massie (Copywrite Donald Rae Massie, all rights reserved by Shannon and Heather)

As noted in Dad’s obituary, we welcome contributions to Warm Hearth Foundations, please designate to the Showalter staff appreciation fund. If you send direct, you can make the designation. The mailing address is: The Village Center • 2387 Warm Hearth Drive • Blacksburg, VA 24060 • (540) 552-9176