Keith Legrand voted best undergraduate teacher in AAE

Author: Alan Cesar
Students voted in record numbers this year and gave LeGrand the E.F. Bruhn Teaching Award from the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Keith LeGrand portrait
Assistant Professor Keith LeGrand. Photo by Alan Cesar, Purdue University

Students voted in record numbers this year to herald the best teacher in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Based on responses from AAE undergrads, assistant professor Keith LeGrand has received the school’s E. F. Bruhn Teaching Award for 2023.

Though LeGrand is new to AAE, he has quickly earned admiration from his students. Responses on social media to a profile story on him included: “amazing teacher,” “best prof I’ve had so far,” and “young legend [for real].”

LeGrand attributes his success as a teacher to how he encourages participation. “I strive to give my students a voice in class. That means that I try not to go more than a couple minutes without stopping to interact. I also try to build in interaction opportunities beyond the traditional Q&A to include students that aren’t comfortable raising their hand to answer a technical question,” he says.

The Elmer F. Bruhn award, presented annually to an outstanding teacher in AAE, recognizes excellence in teaching based on five factors. These factors include how interesting a professor makes their lessons, and if they effectively show how engineering theory bridges to practice.

LeGrand takes to these approaches intuitively.

“The best interactions, and by best I mean the most inclusive and student-engaged, are the times when we go on tangents about current events in aerospace or historical lessons learned. This also promotes learning,” he says. “Students are far more likely to remember a concept if it was connected with a memorable discussion or story.”

The name of the award honors Professor Elmer F. Bruhn, the first person to head the School of Aeronautics when it was founded in 1945. He was known as an inspiring teacher who patiently led his students through the intricacies of aircraft structure analysis. His book, Analysis and Design of Flight Vehicle Structures, has been held in high regard for so long that engineers refer to it simply as: “Bruhn.”

Though this year’s voting brought students out in record numbers, LeGrand’s win is not just the result of a popularity contest: Votes are weighted based on the number of students, the number of courses and the hours instructed. The rest of the top five scoring faculty members for the 2023 Bruhn Teaching Award are: Tyler Tallman, Hashim Hassan, Tom Shih and Tim Pourpoint.

Publish date: April 20, 2023
Author: Alan Cesar