As senior lecturer and undergraduate program director in the Department of Chemical, Biochemical, & Environmental Engineering, Dr. Mariajosé Castellanos’ reach extends far beyond the classroom. From core undergraduate to advanced graduate coursework, Castellanos serves as “a doorway into our department,” and “doorway from our department into the world,” according to UMBC professor and department chair Dr. Mark Marten.
Notably, Castellanos transformed Thermodynamics, a challenging departmental core class, from a traditional lecture style course to a flipped-learning and team-based class in an effort to improve student outcome. She applied the same principles to revamp the senior level capstone design class, again implementing a team-based learning approach incorporating soft skills rarely learned in the classroom yet critical to success beyond graduation.
A 2013 Hrabowski Innovation Fund seed grant recipient, Castellanos has advised 24 undergraduate independent study projects, participates in the Faculty Development Center and professional conferences focused on pedagogy and college-level teaching, and contributes to numerous campus committees and initiatives outside of her department.
Yet Castellanos’ most compelling endorsements come from her students, whose feedback helped Castellanos earn the department’s only exceptional instructor rating from a recent ABET evaluation. For many former students, Castellanos – or Dr. C as she is best known – is more than just a professor. With over 30 former students providing feedback in support of Castellanos’ outstanding faculty award nomination, many cited Castellanos’ support and innovative teaching in a highly challenging course of study as influential.
“Dr. C was the first professor who truly showed me the value in working a problem that I wasn’t sure how to proceed with,” notes nominator Jeremy Drew ’17, chemical engineering. Adds former student Marc Scimonelli ’13, chemical engineering, “Dr. C helped me develop non-technical skills that have helped me work in diverse multidisciplinary groups, build relationships, and consider the whole picture.”
According to Cody Kendig ’17, chemical engineering, “Dr. C cares about the well-being of her students, and adapts to each of their individual needs in order to bring them the most comprehensive education possible.”
— Amy Dalrymple
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