Andrew F. Braham
Personal and Professional Development

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Teaching Statement |  Research Statement |  Service Statement |  Leadership Statement

Teaching Statement

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My teaching philosophy is built around three personal core values: Community, Understanding, and Awareness. I believe that when I infuse my personal three core values into my teaching, I provide students with an enriching learning environment and prepare them for successful future professional endeavors.

I feel the classroom should be a Community all members want to enter. Ownership in the classroom promotes and fosters participation. A strong identity enhances learning. Ownership and identity are key characteristics for developing leadership skills. Technical information is critical to completing an engineering task, but equally important is students’ ethical and leadership development. By acting as a community, students develop the ability to think holistically, work productively, and cultivate a sense of responsibility for their own behaviors. Through practicing these technical and personal attributes within the supportive teaching arena, students build confidence and prepare themselves for the demands of the professional community. Without Community, I believe a learning institution does not have the strength or structure to support all the essential goals of higher education. I introduce and promote the characteristics of Community in my teaching to the students by emphasizing report writing and presentations for classes, like I do for CVEG 4863 “Sustainability in Civil Engineering” at the University of Arkansas, for instance. By working in groups on these projects, students gain ownership of their portion of the project, build identity for recognizing the tasks at which they excel, and form a community where all participants know their strengths. Fostering Community in the classroom allows students to function on multi-disciplinary teams and strengthen their communication and interpersonal skills, all skills essential in any job environment.

The second core value I foster in the classroom is Understanding. Each member of the Community should actively understand himself or herself as well as the other members of the group. The students, as well as the instructor, are encouraged to be informed, sympathetic, and compassionate towards those around them. By cultivating Understanding, students develop cohesion with one another, widen the door of their knowledge, and enhance their personal development. Students learn to understand personal and professional perspectives and values plus develop an openness to new ideas. By understanding themselves and those around them, the students develop a greater awareness as well as stronger commitment and respect for their own values. One way I enhanced my Understanding was by participating in a two-year Post Doctoral Research Fellowship at Southeast University in Nanjing, China. From my two-year international and intercultural experience, I learned how to look at problems from unique perspectives and to use new tools to handle unexpected and unfamiliar challenges as they arose.

Neither Community nor Understanding, however, can be achieved without Awareness. I have observed and firmly believe from personal experience that if we remain alert in observing and interpreting what we see and hear, information flows smoothly. By practicing cognizance and sensibility, learning comes naturally. Through Awareness, people also build higher-order thinking skills. Through practicing Awareness in the classroom, students learn how to apply principles they already know to new problems and situations, improve their listening skills, and strengthen their self-esteem and self-confidence. My cognizance of Awareness grew extensively from my experience at the Illinois Leadership Center (ILC) at the University of Illinois. In addition to being a Civil Engineering Research Assistant, I was a Graduate Assistant at the ILC for one year, a participant in all five of their I-Programs (Insight, Intersect, Ignite, Imprint, and Integrity), and a facilitator at four of their I-Programs. These programs centered around concepts of personal knowledge, interpersonal knowledge, leading formal groups and organizations, personal and professional transitions, and interpersonal and organizational ethical leadership development. The experience of personally moving through these programs, and then helping lead others through these programs, opened new windows of Awareness into, not only myself, but the people around me as well. Awareness is critical for all engineering students and it will help them every day, whether it be in a class, an internship, or employment after graduation.

In summary, I believe a classroom is an incredible arena for personal, social, and professional growth, and this growth can be achieved to a large extent through Community, Understanding, and Awareness in the classroom. I aspire to convey and will continue to seek knowledge through these three personal core values. My ability to promote Community, Understanding, and Awareness in the classroom was demonstrated in the Spring 2012 when I was given an “Outstanding Mentor” award from the University of Arkansas for my work with students. It was demonstrated again in the Fall 2012, when I was awarded a “New Faculty Commendation for Teaching Commitment” from the Teaching and Faculty Support Center at the University of Arkansas.

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Research Statement

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Research is an extremely dynamic process. As time passes, certain areas of research become more salient, while others require less attention. As a tenure-track Assistant Professor at the University of Arkansas, my current research focuses on three primary areas: advanced pavement materials characterization, pavement maintenance and rehabilitation products, and sustainability.

My first area of research, advanced pavement materials characterization, is where I explore fundamental material properties of asphalt concrete and asphalt cement. Tests in the laboratory used to quantify these fundamental properties of asphalt concrete include the Superpave Indirect Tension Test, creep compliance, dynamic modulus, and fracture testing. The pavement materials laboratory at the University of Arkansas is able to run these tests on two MTS load frames with an environmental chamber that is compatible with each load frame. In addition, torsion beam tests on asphalt concrete can be run on a Dynamic Hybrid Rheometer. For asphalt cement, the Dynamic Hybrid Rheometer captures G*, sin delta, and Jnr, while the Brookfield Rotational Viscometer measures workability and pumpability. This wide range of testing capabilities allows for a deep understanding of the fundamental material properties of asphalt concrete and asphalt cement.

It is essential to be able to capture these fundamental material properties of pavements as there is a consistent demand for longer lasting roads at lower costs. These goals of improved quality with lower costs are often achieved by introducing new and innovative pavement products. For example, Warm Mix Asphalt is able to reduce production and construction temperatures of asphalt concrete, which in theory reduces energy consumption and fiscal cost. However, the technologies that drive these advancements are unknown. For example, an open question of foamed Warm Mix Asphalt is how long can the asphalt concrete be stored at construction temperatures before the workability benefits due to the foaming is lost? Or, when attempting to understand cracking in asphalt concrete, is tensile strength an adequate measure, or does fracture energy provide a significant improvement in the understanding of the material? These questions, and many more, can be answered by capturing fundamental material properties.

The tests run on the MTS load frame require displacement and load to be recorded. The load is measured by a load cell on the load frame, but while the displacement can be measured by a Linear Variable Differential Transformer (LVDT), it is more accurate to use external displacement gauges to obtain the displacements. These types of external gauges include extensometers, strain gauges, and clip gauges. The disadvantage of using these pieces of equipment is that the data can only be collected at one point on the sample, and that point cannot change during the test. My laboratory is incorporating Digital Image Correlation (DIC) to collect displacement and strain measurements. By using digital images, displacement and strains can be recorded across the entire specimen face. Therefore, bulk displacement, crack propagation, and other displacements or strains at any point on the sample can be captured and analyzed. Through this advanced data collection technique, a deeper understanding of the fundamental material properties of asphalt concrete is possible.

My second area of research, pavement maintenance and rehabilitation, explores performance testing of a wide range of pavement maintenance and rehabilitation products. The pavement network in the United States is highly developed but in a serious state of decline. Compared to research in new-build pavement, research in the area of pavement maintenance and rehabilitation is underdeveloped. Products such as chip seals, slurry seals, micro-surfacing, Full Depth Reclamation, and Cold In-place Recycling rely heavily on empirical tests developed 10-20, or even more, years ago. There is a significant need to develop new performance tests that accurately predict field performance of these products. With the testing equipment described in the previous section, along with a Wirtgen WL10S foaming machine and a lab-scale Supraton asphalt emulsion mill, and capabilities to perform the raveling test, the wet-track abrasion test, and the sweep test, my lab has the strong ability to develop new performance tests. My research is identifying the areas of greatest need and working with governmental agencies and private companies to develop and implement tests that will be able to increase the success of pavement maintenance products and reduce costs, so that high-quality, cost-effective pavement rehabilitation products can be applied to a great number of roadways.

My third area of research, sustainability, crosses all disciplines of Civil Engineering. Life Cycle Cost Analysis, Life Cycle Analysis, and emission and waste streams of engineering systems are all areas that can be applied in transportation, structural, environmental, and geotechnical areas of Civil Engineering. As I continue to learn and apply more of these sustainable metrics toward transportation applications of Civil Engineering, I dialogue with other faculty in the department in order to share and transfer knowledge of sustainability potential into their disciplines and projects.

The three areas of research I have discussed above, advanced pavement materials characterization, pavement maintenance and rehabilitation, and sustainability, can be made more successful through collaboration with other researchers. As mentioned, I am already reaching out to other faculty in the Civil Engineering department here at the University of Arkansas. Additionally, I am discussing potential research in other engineering disciplines, including Industrial, Mechanical, and Chemical. As the boundaries blur between disciplines, I strive to stay on the leading front of cross-disciplinary research in order to meet the research needs of the local community, the state of Arkansas, the United States, and the global community. In order to achieve this, I am submitting proposals and discussing research possibilities with universities around the United States as well as outside of the country – specifically with Southeast University in Nanjing, China and Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia. As the world becomes smaller and more interconnected, international relationships are essential in order to meet the needs of the engineering world.

Research in the laboratory is critical for advancement of knowledge, but equally important is transferring this knowledge to undergraduate and graduate students in the classroom. Students attending college expect to obtain a world class education in Civil Engineering. I believe it is important to weave lab concepts into these classes to let students explore the excitement and possibilities in Civil Engineering, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. While fundamental equations and theory are always important, real world application brings these problems alive and encourages students to push their boundaries in their educational development.

In summary, as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering, my three areas of research include advanced pavement materials characterization, pavement maintenance and rehabilitation, and sustainability. My research is enhanced by local to global collaboration with other researchers, and is complimented by the incorporation of real-world applications of engineering research into the undergraduate and graduate classrooms at the University of Arkansas.

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Service Statement

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I believe a university faculty member acts as a tripod, with three strong legs. One leg of the tripod is research, the second leg teaching, and the third leg is service. It is often easier to quantify the first two legs: how many papers do you publish, how much money do you generate, how many classes do you teach, how many teaching awards have you won, and so on. But I believe service is just as critical as research and teaching. While service is not as straight forward to measure as research and teaching, I believe that service should be provided on a local, national, and international level.

In my opinion, service at a local level is the most important level of service. Since the University of Arkansas is a land-grant institution, funded significantly by tax-payer dollars, service back to the university and community should be expected. One aspect of service in the local community is serving on committees. A university is complex, with many different aspects that need attention from faculty members. I believe it is one of my duties as a faculty member to serve on university committees, from the university-wide Transit, Parking, and Traffic Committee to participating in departmental hiring committees; all are necessary to keep the university running smoothly. In addition to serving on committees, participating in outreach programs such as the Engineering Career Awareness Program or Engineering Highlights, both in the College of Engineering, allow me to serve the university.

Another aspect of service to the local community is on the state-wide level. Civil Engineers have ample opportunities to participate in state activities, such as the Arkansas State Highway Transportation Department (AHTD) and other state-wide associations. As in the case for university programs, these state-run associations also depend on help from the community. I believe faculty are prime candidates to participate in these roles. Currently, I am heavily involved with the Arkansas Asphalt Pavement Association and the Arkansas Concrete Pavement Association.

The final aspect of local community I strive to develop is within the local school system. Often it is difficult for pre-university students to understand why they are learning concepts in math and science. I would like to share real-world applications of engineering concepts to local middle and high schools. From fractions to calculus, from chemical compounds to gravity, these are issues engineers deal with everyday. I want to explain some of the more interesting and useful applications in ways that are easy for all levels of students to understand. At the University of Wisconsin and the University of Illinois, I always enjoyed working at the Engineering EXPO, where elementary, middle, and high school students from around the state could learn about the research that was being performed at the university. Currently, I work closely with the Engineering Outreach Office at the University of Arkansas to work with middle school and high school aged students interested in engineering through the Engineering Exploration Program and summer camps. In addition, I often incorporate summer camps for students in Northwest Arkansas into my research proposals. These one week summer camps give students an opportunity to come to the University of Arkansas and learn about engineering concepts through fun, educational, and hands-on activities.

In addition to service within the local community, the next level of service is on a national scale. Civil Engineers are fortunate to be in a field where there are always new nation-wide engineering problems to face as well as innovative solutions to discover. These problems are often dealt with on a national level through committees and task forces. I am already an active member of the Transportation Research Board, as a member of committee AFK20 (Committee on Characteristics of Bituminous Materials), AFK50 (Characteristics of Asphalt Paving Mixtures to Meet Structural Requirements), and AHD20 (Committee on Pavement Preservation). I am also an active member of the Association of Asphalt Paving Technologists, serving as the Chair of the Newer Member Committee, which continually works to understand the behavior and characteristics of asphalt concrete and its components. Finally, I created and host a monthly webinar series called “Pavinars: Webinars for the Pavement Community.” These webinars give an hour long introduction to various topics in the pavement industry, are attended by public and private sector engineers from around the country, and include time for questions and answers. By serving on committees and hosting the webinars, I am able to reach out to professionals around the country and improve the state of knowledge in pavement materials and sustainability.

I believe that for me, the final level of service I strive for as a faculty member at the University of Arkansas is on an international scale. Having spent 2009-2010 living and working in China, I have experienced first-hand how many of the problems occurring in the transportation infrastructure of China are similar to the problems occurring within the United States. From traffic flow, to cracking in pavements, to subbase failure; these are transportation issues being addressed around the world. Societies such as RILEM, which is an organization dedicated to bringing together researchers from around the world, are essential so each country does not need to discover, process, and solve the same problems that other countries have already solved. With today’s technology, we can either fly across the world in a day or speak to people at all four points of the globe simultaneously online in order to discuss, address, and solve these engineering problems we are all facing.

I believe service must have a purpose. As a faculty member, I actively search out committees and task forces at the university, in the city, in the state of Arkansas, at a national level, and around the world that are working to solve the challenges facing both transportation engineering and university communities. While research and teaching are often the more visual deliverables of a university faculty member, I believe service is just as crucial.

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Leadership Statement

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During the fourth week of INEG5253 “Leadership Principles” of the Fall 2013 semester, while reading The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell, I was struck with the fact that I was overwhelmed. After listening to all of the leadership styles, influences, eureka moments, obstacles, failures, strengths, weaknesses, and legacies from the four speakers and two books covered to date, I was slowly being buried under a wealth of head knowledge about leadership. During these first three weeks, I was diligently taking notes during class and on the readings, trying to absorb all of the information, and striving to implement these new ideas in the classroom, in my research group, and in my personal life, when I realized that the entire framework I was building was about to crumble like a house of cards. At that point, I decided to return to my three core values in order to build a strong foundation to better digest and incorporate the wealth of knowledge gained from class. My confidence in this decision was reinforced after General Steele and Mr. Duke stated the importance of staying inside their value systems, and how this approach provided a foundation for their leadership journeys. My three core values are understanding, awareness, and community. I began developing these core values at the Illinois Leadership Center while obtaining my Ph.D. in 2005, and I try to use these values as a guide in all facets of my life. Therefore, this reflection will look at the information I absorbed from the speakers and the readings in INEG5253 through the lens of understanding, awareness, and community.

The first value I will reflect on is understanding. While there are myriad perspectives on the concept of understanding, one theme came up multiple times during the Leadership Principles class: taking time. This perspective came through in many different ways. Mr. Roberts, for example, advised the class to go slow, give things time, and don’t rush a decision. This concept was enforced in Leadership on the Line as well, where Heifetz and Linsky spent time discussing that it takes discipline to unplug, slow down, and create moments of transition each day. In my own personal life, I am fortunate to live close enough to campus that I am able to walk into work within a reasonable time. When I walk into work (generally 3-4 times per week), my day is completely different, both transitioning from home to work in the morning and from work to home in the evening. I believe these thirty minutes of transition, when I don’t have the daily distractions of students, colleagues, and emails, are priceless in my ability to function at work and at home. This time also allows me to have the opportunity to deeply think about both professional and personal issues I am facing. During this deep thought, I can take the advice of Mr. Pincus, who said that every time you think you have a shot, turn around and look at a new perspective. By allowing myself to skip from one thought to another while I walk, I often think of fresh perspectives that I probably would not have thought of during work or at home. The final component to the theme of understanding that was salient to my thinking came from Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith was asked by a student during class about how he balances his personal and professional life. He very calmly and confidently said that he doesn’t balance, but he is constantly rebalancing. I often struggle with the amount of time I spend on my work and the cost that it could be charging to my personal life, so this concept gave me a new perspective on how to more successfully address balancing, or rebalancing, of my life.

The second value I will reflect on is awareness. The theme that repeated itself multiple times over the semester in INEG 5253 in terms of awareness was insight. Insight can take many forms, both internal and external. In order to have strong insight, it is essential to have the proper information. According to The Art of War (Tzu), information is key. Having key information allows leaders not only to recognize the pieces on the board, but also to give insight on interpreting the pieces. As Sample stated in The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, leadership is highly situational and contingent. In my work, these two concepts come out most strongly in interacting with my graduate students. When talking about research or mentoring on life, I must not only consider the various possible scenarios to explore (key information), but I must also consider the student (highly situational and contingent). Each student has a different background, they each “carry their culture and identity wherever they go” (Mr. Peterson), and they each have different goals and aspirations. Additionally, to complicate things even further, according to Dr. White different people see different truths; that is, multiple truths exist. For example, when a situation appears black and white to me, there may be shades of grey that the students see. In order to be a good advisor and mentor, it is up to me to recognize these possibilities and take them into account when interacting with my students. These factors prevent any “one size fits all” solution to advising graduate students. A final glimpse to insight is reflected in the fact that how I interact with students today is different than when I first started, and my methods will probably be different five, ten, and twenty years in the future.

The third and final value I will reflect on is community. Community has a multitude of meanings, yet, in the lens of INEG5253, I believe that the most important aspect of community is understanding people. When working with other people, it is important to be mindful of other’s speed, according to Mrs. Lopez-Willhelm. Some people move fast, some people take the time for deep reflection, and a spectrum of people exist between these two extremes, which means that it is important to understand the speed of people with whom one works. This is important to remember, because according to The Prince (Machiavelli), a person is judged by the company he/she keeps, and a group is judged by its weakest member. Therefore, when leading a group, it is important to know the characteristics of each member of the team, as people will classify the team according to who they perceive as the weakest member of the community. One way to raise the level of everyone in the team is to lead by giving the impression that the followers are leading (according to Lincoln on Leadership, by Phillips). If the leader takes the time to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each member of the team and purposely assigns roles according to these strengths and weaknesses, each member of the team can feel that they are in control of the situation and are integral participants. This will increase productivity and drive team members to be more productive and have higher levels of contribution. Care must be taken, however, when delegating tasks, as every message that people receive is filtered through the messenger, as stated by Maxwell in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Therefore, skimming the surface of understanding the team members is not adequate, and care must be taken in ensuring that the message is conveyed correctly. This concept reminds me of a statement made by Ms. Judy Braham. Ms. Braham believes the Golden Rule “one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself” as it is often understood and implemented, is self-centered and destructive to communities. While knowing what one wants or needs is important, it is even more important to know what others want and need. Thus Ms. Braham believes the Golden Rule should read “one should treat others as the other would like to be treated.” Once the other is treated as the other would want to be treated, once that is known, the wants and needs of the messenger can be understood and implemented, thereby increasing the productivity and motivation of the community.

Mr. Long provided much of my motivation to write this reflection by stating that we should use books to help in our leadership and personal development journey, but that we need to apply the concepts to ourselves to build on our weaknesses. This reflection is the first step in applying my learnings from INEG5253 to my personal and professional life. I hope to continue implementing wisdom gained from this class in the three facets of my professional life: my research, my teaching, and my service. I believe that all three of these facets can accommodate my core values of understanding, awareness, and community. To do this, I will take the words of Wayne Gretzky and strive to “skate where the puck will be.” And at the end of the day, these thoughts and this reflection is an academic exercise, so I will need to “sit down, shut up, suck it up, and get to work” (Mr. Peterson).

Last updated: June 2015