Nelson Vinueza, assistant professor in the Department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science (TECS), has received the 2018-2019 Outstanding Teacher Award. He is one of 18 NC State professors presented with this year’s award, which recognizes excellence in teaching at all levels.
Recipients of this award are inducted into the Academy of Outstanding Teachers for as long as they remain university faculty, and the Outstanding Teacher Award is a prerequisite for being considered for both the Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Alumni Distinguished Professor Award.
Vinueza has been teaching at the Wilson College of Textiles at NC State since 2013, and in that time has proven to be an innovative, dedicated and inspiring professor and mentor to his students.
“He identified opportunities outside of class, such as professional seminars, that could further supplement our learning and encouraged our attendance,” said his former student Hayley Klumpe ‘17 (B.S. Polymer and Color Chemistry / B.S. Fashion and Textile Management), now a graduate student in the Poole College of Management’s Global Luxury and Management program at NC State. “He also seemed intent on preparing his students for on-the-job challenges by identifying some of the real issues that we might face in industry, drawing on his personal experiences and discussing how we can successfully navigate those challenges. He repeatedly challenged us and his constant support in the classroom encouraged us to challenge ourselves.”
Background and Education
Born and raised in Quito, Ecuador, Vinueza — like many of his peers — dreamed of becoming a soccer star. He also had a talent for taking things apart and putting them back together, so he considered a career as an electrical engineer. However, his high school chemistry teacher brought the subject to life with clear explanations and the presentation of challenging problems (some of which Vinueza incorporates in his own lectures to this day); he formed a bond with chemistry and dedicated his career to the science.
He earned a B.S. in industrial chemistry in 2001 and a B.S. in chemical engineering in 2003, both from the Universidad San Francisco de Quito. He moved to the United States to attend Purdue University, graduating with his Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry in 2010. He went on to a post-doctoral fellowship at the Center of Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels (C3BIO), an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the US Department of Energy, at Purdue.
Before joining NC State, Vinueza was part of the Proyecto Prometeo, an initiative of the Ecuadorian government. As part of Prometeo, he joined the Ecuadorian Prosecutor’s Office to advance the area of forensic sciences; while there, he managed the process of opening three new forensic national laboratories.
In his classes at the Wilson College of Textiles, he incorporates technology in novel ways, including the use of Twitter to encourage class engagement and participation.
“[Vinueza] never ceases to impress me with his teaching innovations to enhance student learning,” said Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor Russell Gorga, Director of Undergraduate Programs and Associate Department Head for TECS. “In addition to [his] innovations, he is an excellent communicator who is continuously seeking to excite students in the classroom…He is passionate about teaching, and it shows inside the classroom as well as outside of it.”
One of Vinueza’s influences is his 10-year-old daughter; watching her soak up knowledge and puzzle through problems both inspires him and informs how he teaches — dynamically, challenging students to think for themselves, lead and make connections between the subject matter and the real world. He has an open door policy with his students, and he wants them to succeed beyond the classroom.
“The teaching experience allows me to challenge and impart critical concepts on students in a dynamic and creative way,” said Vinueza. “As an educator, I am constantly looking for new ways to make my classes better, refine my approach through workshops, peer and student evaluations. I will continue my effort to reach students with multiple channels of communications, keep improving my courses and continue to have a positive impact on their lives.”
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Written by Cameron Walker