Three Engineering graduate students named first-ever Teaching Fellows

PhD students who want to go into faculty careers need faculty mentoring and teaching experiences. The Purdue Engineering Office of Graduate Education is partnering with the Office of Undergraduate Education and schools of Engineering to develop meaningful mentoring and teaching experiences through a new initiative, the Dean’s Teaching Fellowship, which will help give these opportunities to graduate students.

Photo of 3 new Dean's Teaching Fellows

After a rigorous nomination process, three Purdue Engineering graduate students have been selected as the very first Dean’s Teaching Fellows for 2020:

  • Bing Li (l), Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Mitchell Rencheck (center), Materials Engineering
  • Zhouyang Lou (r), Industrial Engineering

Before now, only three schools in the College of Engineering offered organized teaching fellowships for their students – in Mechanical, Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Civil Engineering. There were no college-wide opportunities available for graduate Engineering students. The Dean’s Teaching Fellowship will fill this gap and allow equal teaching opportunities for graduate students in all Purdue Engineering disciplines. 

The structure of the Dean’s Teaching Fellowship is two semesters: in the spring 2020 semester, the graduate students will shadow a faculty mentor to learn best teaching practices. In the fall 2020 semester, the students will serve as the instructor to implement what they learned. Both faculty mentors and Fellows are expected to exhibit excellent teaching practices and pedagogy, as well as apply innovative methods that will allow their undergraduate students to succeed in the courses.

“The teaching fellowship will shape me as a student-centered teacher and help more [undergraduate] students get excited about academic life,” said Zhouyang Lou, a PhD student in Industrial Engineering.

To be eligible, graduate students must have passed their preliminary exam, have greater than a 3.5 GPA, and be perceived by the student’s advisory committee chair as having high potential to succeed in academia. The three graduate students selected had an average GPA of 3.88, have published peer-reviewed research articles and/or book chapters, and have shown a strong commitment to mentoring, service, and outreach. They are interested in a range of academic careers, from faculty positions at teaching-focused institutions to Research (R1) institutions.

“I was excited about applying for this opportunity because it will allow me to share my enthusiasm for materials engineering and allow me to develop my skills as an instructor at the same time,” said Mitchell Rencheck, a PhD student in Materials Engineering.

The three 2020 Graduate Dean’s Teaching Fellows are excited to learn by shadowing faculty mentors, and also recognize they can also learn a lot through working with Purdue undergraduate Engineering students.

“I have always learned more from the students than they have allowed me to teach in class,” said Bing Li, a PhD student in Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Graduate students interested in the Dean’s Teaching Fellowship should contact Dr. Jackie McDermott ( Further information about the 2021 Dean’s Teaching Fellowship application will be announced during the fall 2020 semester.

Writer: Dr. Jackie McDermott,