Andrew F. Braham
Personal and Professional Development
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Teaching Statement |
Research Statement |
Leadership Statement |
Click here for a .pdf copy of my Teaching Statement
My teaching philosophy is built around my personal three core values: Community, Understanding, and Awareness. I believe if I am able to infuse my three personal core values into my teaching, I will provide students with an enriching learning environment and prepare them for successful future professional endeavors.
My first core value is Community. I feel the classroom should be a community all members want to enter. Technical information is critical to completing an engineering task, but equally important are students’ ethical and leadership development. In terms of ethical development, by acting as a community, students develop the ability to think holistically, work productively, and cultivate a sense of responsibility for their own behavior. In terms of leadership development, ownership and a strong identity in the classroom fosters community building skills. Through practicing these technical, ethical, and leadership 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 the structure to support all the essential goals of higher education. I introduce and promote the characteristics of Community in my teaching by emphasizing report writing and presentations for classes. For example, group report writing and presentations are the primary assignments for my undergraduate technical elective CVEG 4863 “Sustainability in Civil Engineering” at the University of Arkansas. 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 ethical and leadership skills, all essential skills in any job environment.
The second core value I wish to bring to the classroom is Understanding. Each member of the community should actively understand himself or herself and the other members of the group. The students, as well as the instructor, should be informed, sympathetic and compassionate to those around them. By cultivating Understanding, students develop cohesion with one another, widen the door of their knowledge, and enhance their personal development. They will 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 a stronger commitment and respect for their own values. A core portion of my Understanding was obtained by participating in a two-year Post-Doc at Southeast University in Nanjing, China, and a six-month sabbatical at Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. Over the combined two and a half years, these intercultural experiences allowed me to look at problems from unique perspectives and leverage new tools to handle unexpected and unfamiliar challenges as they arose. It is my goal to weave these perspectives and tools into the classroom to provide students with examples of Understanding to begin their own professional journey.
Neither Community nor Understanding, however, can be achieved without Awareness, my third core value. 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 participation in ExCEEd: Excellence in Civil Engineering Education. Before participating in ExCEEd, I had been a teaching assistant for multiple courses, a graduate assistant at the Illinois Leadership Center, taken a graduate level course in teaching (EOL 585 “Classroom Teaching”), and had taught multiple undergraduate and graduate courses at the University of Arkansas. However, ExCEEd exposed me to “learning how to teach” through eight steps in a model instructional strategy:
1. Provide an orientation
2. Provide learning objectives
3. Provide information
4. Stimulate critical thinking about the subject
5. Provide models
6. Provide opportunities to apply the knowledge
7. Assess the learners’ performance and provide feedback
8. Provide opportunities for self-assessment.
By formally structuring my teaching around these eight steps, I believe I have been able to improve student learning in the classroom. These eight steps do not compose a linear process and are dependent on my instructional design and the students in the classroom. However, from being a teaching assistant to teaching my own courses, my journey through Awareness continues every day and I strive to continually increase the students’ Awareness as well.
In summary, I believe a classroom is an incredible arena for personal, interpersonal, 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 has been demonstrated multiple times at the University of Arkansas, including receiving a 2012 New Teaching Commendation award, a 2012, 2014, and 2018 Outstanding Mentor award, and the 2016 and 2018 Civil Engineering department Outstanding Teacher award.
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Click here for a .pdf copy of my Research Statement
Research is an extremely dynamic process. As time passes, certain areas of research become more salient, while others require less attention. As a tenured Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas, my research currently focuses on three primary areas: asphalt emulsion, pavement maintenance and rehabilitation, and sustainability.
My first area of research is asphalt emulsions. Within asphalt emulsions, I strive to increase overall knowledge of soap solution fabrication, asphalt emulsion milling, and performance properties of asphalt emulsion both in the lab and in the field. Asphalt emulsions are often thought of as more of an art than a science, but I believe that with proper analysis of each component of asphalt emulsion, along with robust control of parameters during the manufacturing process, movement can be made to understand fundamental asphalt emulsion properties. A critical perspective of asphalt emulsions is the milling process. The asphalt binder, soap solution, and any additives are joined together immediately before the mill, and after passing through the mill, the asphalt binder becomes suspended in the soap solution with the help of the emulsifiers. By using our lab bench-top scale Herbert Rink asphalt emulsion mill, we are able to manufacture asphalt emulsion and then test it using a Cannon DPV (digital paddle viscometer) and a Beckman Coulter Multisizer (for particle size distribution). Moving toward performance based specifications (such as particle size) and away from empirical tests (such as demulsibility or penetration) is critical for a deeper understanding of asphalt emulsions.
Another important area of asphalt emulsion research is performance properties in the lab and in the field. Current asphalt emulsion specifications are empirical, and not tied to actual field performance. Therefore, the development of performance-based specifications, which can be run in the lab before placement in the field, would be beneficial for the Civil Engineering community. These concepts of performance-based specifications can be extended into the soap solution production as well. When making a soap solution for asphalt emulsion, the only parameter recorded is the pH and the temperature. However, it would be beneficial to better understand the characteristics of the soap solution before the manufacturing of the asphalt emulsion. Perhaps a better control of viscosity would increase the performance of the final asphalt emulsion, or a molecular analysis on the soap solution residue. There has been very little research done in this area, which provides an opportunity for development.
My second area of research is pavement maintenance and rehabilitation. This is a wide field, but I am interested in focusing on exploring the fundamental behavior of the different pavement maintenance and rehabilitation products. Research in my group has focused on developing a return to traffic testing device for Full Depth Reclamation (FDR), reducing the quantity of material needed for lab testing of Cold In-place Recycling (CIR), exploring FDR as a semi-stabilized layer in pavement structural design, and studying compaction behavior of both CIR and FDR. In addition, collaborative work with other universities has investigated the influence of asphalt emulsion on aged asphalt concrete stiffness. All of these research studies are an attempt to not only understand fundamental behavior, but also begin moving toward implementing innovative test methods and analysis techniques both in the lab and the field for pavement maintenance and rehabilitation products.
In addition to exploring innovative test methods and analysis techniques, my group’s pavement maintenance and rehabilitation research has explored asphalt emulsion and aggregate interaction. While the understanding of soap solution and asphalt emulsion are critical, at the end of the day, the majority of asphalt emulsion applications are combined with an aggregate. Whether an aggregate dropped on the surface of an asphalt emulsion in a chip seal or an aggregate mixed with asphalt emulsion in a slurry seal, CIR, or FDR (three types of asphalt emulsion mix applications), understanding the aggregate and asphalt emulsion interaction is essential in understanding pavement maintenance and rehabilitation products. The University of Arkansas has many tests available for quantifying the performance of asphalt emulsion mix applications, including:
- Wet track abrasion
- Superpave Indirect Tension
- Creep compliance
- Dynamic modulus (uniaxial, indirect, and shear torsion bar)
- Fracture testing.
For asphalt emulsion residue, when the water has left the asphalt emulsion, the Dynamic Hybrid Rheometer captures G*, sin delta, and Jnr, while the Brookfield Rotational Viscometer measures viscosity. This wide range of testing capabilities in our lab allows for a deep understanding of the fundamental material properties of asphalt emulsion mix applications and asphalt emulsion residue. This research is critical as it been shown that spending $1 to maintain a good road can save $6-10 of future reconstruction costs.
My third area of research, sustainability, crosses all disciplines of Civil Engineering. As described in my textbook “Fundamentals of Sustainability in Civil Engineering” (CRC Press, 2017) there are three pillars of sustainably: economic, environmental, and social. Metrics have been developed in each of these areas. For example, under the economic pillar of sustainability, there is Life Cycle Cost analysis, and under the environmental pillar, Life Cycle Analysis. However, there are very few metrics for the social pillar of sustainability. There are two different levels of social metrics for sustainability: the level of the developing world and that of the developed world. In the developing world, metrics are centered around clean drinking water or access to education, whereas in the developed world, metrics could include government services access by mass transit or the utilization of locally sourced materials in construction. As I continue to learn and apply more of these sustainable metrics toward transportation applications of Civil Engineering, I dialogue with other faculty in different departments and colleges in order to share and transfer knowledge of sustainability potential into their disciplines and projects.
In summary, as a tenured Associate Professor in Civil Engineering at the University of Arkansas, my three areas of research include asphalt emulsion, pavement maintenance and rehabilitation, and sustainability. My research is enhanced by local, regional, national, and 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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Click here for a .pdf copy of my Service Statement
I believe a university faculty member acts as a tripod, with three strong legs. One leg of the tripod is research, the second leg is 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 that service is just as critical as research and teaching for someone in my role. While service is not as straight forward to measure as research and teaching (this is similar to the difficulty of quantifying the social pillar of sustainably, versus the economic or environmental), I believe that, as a tenured, Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas, I should be providing service 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 serving on the Transit, Parking, and Traffic Committee and the Athletic Committee at the university level, 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 conferences organized by the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT), the local chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), 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 (AAPA) and the Arkansas Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA).
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 (TRB), 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 (AAPT), organizing the yearly webinar series, which continually works to understand the behavior and characteristics of asphalt concrete and its components. Finally, I created and hosted 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 live questions and answers. By serving on committees and hosting webinars, I am able to reach out to professionals around the country and improve the state of knowledge in pavement materials and sustainability within the Civil Engineering field.
The final level of service I strive for as a faculty member at the University of Arkansas is service on an international scale. Having spent two years in China for my Post-Doc and six months in Spain for a sabbatical, I have experienced firsthand how many of the problems occurring in the transportation infrastructure of China and Spain are similar to the problems occurring within the United States. This has led me to be more active within the Asphalt Emulsion Manufacturing Association (AEMA), an international association. I am involved with AEMA in two primary functions. First, I am the chair of the Young Member Committee. Each year, the committee establishes three goals in order to increase the knowledge of asphalt emulsions, from implementing a mentorship program to developing YouTube videos on basic asphalt emulsion principles. Second, I have developed three on-demand, on-online certificates for asphalt emulsion. These three certificates are:
- Introduction to Asphalt Emulsion
- Applications of Asphalt Emulsion
- Manufacturing of Asphalt Emulsion
Through these three certificates, I hope that awareness is raised for the economic and environmental benefits of utilizing asphalt emulsion through a better understanding of the characteristics and fundamental behavior of asphalt emulsion.
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 important.
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Click here for a .pdf copy of my Leadership Statement
When I was an assistant professor, Professor John White was kind enough to allow me to sit in on his leadership class for graduate engineers: INEG 5253 “Leadership Principles”. During the fourth week, while reading The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by 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, and weaknesses from the four speakers and two books covered to date, I was slowly being buried under a wealth of head knowledge about leadership. During those first three weeks, I was diligently taking notes during class and on the readings, trying to absorb all the information, and striving to implement the new ideas in my 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 the leadership class. My confidence in this decision was reinforced after guest speakers 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. This reflection will look at the information I absorbed from the speakers and the readings in INEG 5253 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. Guest speaker 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 authors 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 near a campus bus route. When I take the bus to work, versus driving a car, 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 twenty-five 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 guest speaker Mr. Pincus, who said that every time you think you have a shot, turn around and look at a new perspective. The final component to the theme of Understanding that was salient to my thinking came from guest speaker 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, 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 (by 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 author Sample stated in The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, leadership is highly situational and contingent. In my work, the balance between information and situational 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 (information), but I must also consider the student (highly situational). Each student has a different background, they each “carry their culture and identity wherever they go” (guest speaker 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 gray 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 through Awareness when interacting with my students.
The third and final value I will reflect on is Community. Community has a multitude of meanings, yet, in the lens of INEG 5253, I believe the most important aspect of Community is recognizing people. When working with other people, it is important to be mindful of others’ speed, according to guest speaker 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 recognize the speed of people with whom one works. This is important to remember, because according to The Prince (by 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 recognize 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, which builds Community. This will increase productivity and drive team members to be more productive and have higher levels of contribution.
Guest speaker 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 INEG 5253 to my personal and professional life. I hope to continue implementing wisdom gained from this class in the three facets of my professional life: research, teaching, and 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).
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As I hobby, I enjoy watching airplanes take off and land. Here are some summaries of my airplane spotting, or just spotting, experiences over the years. Enjoy!
Best of Chicago – the UIUC years (2005-2008): Click here for the .pdf picture page
China and beyond - the Southeast University years (2009-2010): Click here for the .pdf picture page
Arkansas: the early years (2011-2014): Click here for the .pdf picture page
Last updated: July 2020