Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is delighted to announce Dr. Tonya Nilsson as this year’s “Innovative Professor of the Year”. As a full time lecturer in Santa Clara University’s Civil Engineering department, Nilsson regularly teaches Graphic Communication, Statics, Strength of Materials, Civil Engineering Materials, and Civil Engineering Professional Development.

Nilsson’s commitment to the field is reflected in her impressive academic and professional credentials. After studying for a Bachelors in Architectural Engineering from Cal Poly, SLO, she went on to earn a Masters in Structural Engineering from Stanford, and a Ph.D in Structural Mechanics from UC Davis. Prior to her time as a professor at SCU, she worked on structural engineering projects in industry and became a tenured Associate Professor at CSU Chico. Additionally, she has worked with and led SCEE’s ExCEED Teaching Workshops for 8 years.

The selection committee for the Innovative Professor of the Year award, made up of the 2017 Global Social Benefit Fellows cohort, recognized Dr. Nilsson for her effective and accommodating teaching style. From incorporating physical models into lectures to help students visualize key concepts, to mixing in both individual and collaborative problem sets, she caters to students of all learning styles, and fosters a classroom environment that encourages unique problem solving approaches and innovative thinking.

Even beyond her classes, Dr. Nilsson is thoroughly involved with the rest of SCU’s engineering community. As an advisor for Engineers Without Borders and the Society of Women Engineers, she has travelled with both clubs to apply her knowledge of engineering to communities in need. Additionally, she does a significant amount of work promoting best practices in education, currently serving as a board member for the Civil Engineering Division of the American Society of Engineering Education.

Her leadership both within and outside the classroom has made a lasting impact on her students, inspiring and equipping them to become leaders of their own:

“Dr. T inspires me to go out of my comfort zone, be a leader, and do what I think is right. She’s the perfect amount of encouraging, while also being honest about what she thinks is reasonable and fair. She’s one of the few professors that I can always count on to give honest and true advice, while also giving me the opportunity and support to pursue things I can’t convince myself to do on my own.”

-Shiyin Lim ‘19, Bioengineering

“Dr. T has been an invaluable mentor and role model…. She has a passion for teaching that is obvious in every interaction, and she is constantly pushing me to explore problems from different angles.… The example she sets through her humanitarian work inspires both myself and everyone else in Engineers Without Borders to explore how we can use our engineering skills to help disadvantaged communities.”

-Ben Lampe, ‘18, Electrical Engineering

Join us as we honor Dr. Nilsson at the Research with a Mission Open House & Expo at SCU’s Locatelli Center on May 23rd.