Congratulations to Dr. Sarah Furtney, Instructional Assistant Professor & Undergraduate Coordinator, for receiving the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering Undergraduate Teacher of the Year Award for 2021-2022.
Undergraduate Teacher of the Year is awarded to faculty who excel in the classroom. On the very first day of the semester, Furtney tells her students that she will treat them “First as a fellow human, second as an early career scientist, and third as a student.” This sentiment forms the foundation for approaching all communications and situations with her students. This allows her to honor their needs as humans and support their professional growth before reviewing points and scores on assessments.
Furtney teaches two required courses for the department: Introduction to Biomedical Engineering (freshmen) and Cellular Engineering Laboratory (junior). The Intro course is commonly a student’s first BME-specific course and is an excellent opportunity to establish both their technical understanding of the field and professional expectations of the community. She uses this course not only to provide technical content but also to carefully curate content and discussions that establish fundamental knowledge useful for mentor relationships. Furtney also teaches the course Cellular Engineering Laboratory and manages the dedicated teaching laboratory that supports the course. She routinely receives the highest teaching evaluations in the department, and this class is noted as one of the most significant courses for the students during their exit interviews.
As Undergraduate Coordinator, she also oversees the advising for the undergraduates and helps with many programmatic activities for our students. Furtney established the Student Leadership Summit, in which student leaders from our BME organizations come together to share best practices and brainstorm solutions for overcoming organizational issues. She also created the BME Undergraduate Research Guidebook which connects BME students with research opportunities on campus.
In addition to organizing the BME Student Leadership Summit, Furtney is also active as the faculty advisor for BMEntors, our BME peer advising group, and BMES, the student organization tied to the primary professional society for BME. Although she does not teach student design, she has taken it upon herself to mentor four design teams for the BMES national competition as part of the annual BMES meeting.
“As Chair of the department, I depend heavily on Dr. Furtney not only for exceptional teaching and mentoring, but also to implement and help manage our undergraduate academic programs and undergraduate student experience; I rely on her with the utmost confidence. Beyond her formal teaching and administrative activities, Dr. Furtney always goes above and beyond. She is a tireless advocate for the undergraduate students and ensures that all students’ voices are heard, said Dr. Christine Schmidt, professor and Chair of J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering.”
Furtney has also participated in many programs outside of the BME department to help mentor students. She has been active in the University Multicultural Program and the First-Generation Program for years. She is active in K-12 outreach, hosting many outreach events in her teaching laboratory and is also Co-Investigator for an NSF sponsored summer program where Alachua County teachers conduct biomedical engineering research and infuse their engineering experience into their elementary classrooms.
This honor, based on an extensive review of Furtney’s credentials, letters of recommendation, peer and student evaluations and recognizes her excellence in teaching students. College Undergraduate Teacher Award winners are also submitted to University Faculty Development for consideration for the university-wide Undergraduate Teacher of the Year Award.