SU Lecturer receives praise for Teaching and Learning in Industrial Engineering

[Article by Nane Zietsman]

The Faculty of Engineering would like to extend a warm congratulations to Professor Jan van Vuuren who recently received the SAIIE Award for Best Industrial Engineering Excellence in Teaching & Learning. This award rewards excellence in education, particularly recognising innovation and novel teaching methods, course designs, assessments or other parts of the academic project, developed over the past two years.

Dr Nel, lecturer at the Department of Industrial Engineering, who nominated Prof. Van Vuuren for the award, states, “Prof. Jan van Vuuren makes an important contribution in this endeavour. He sets out to instil in his students an incessant pursuit of excellence, an effort characterised by fostering a love of science and engineering as well as developing responsibility in terms of performing verifiable research of high quality.” According to Dr Nel, The Stellenbosch Unit for Operations Research in Engineering (SUnORE), which was founded by Prof Van Vuuren, is evidential of the value that Prof Van Vuuren contributes. This unit is celebrated for delivering high-quality final-year BEng projects, MEng theses, and PhD dissertations together with a constant stream of publications in top-ranking journals and awards. Dr Nel further comments on Prof Van Vuuren’s work in teaching on third- and fourth-year levels. “He inspires and enriches his students through mathematical rigour and analytical intuitiveness. It should come as no surprise why Prof Van Vuuren was honoured with this prestigious award.”

According to Prof. Van Vuuren, the greatest reward of being an educator is experiencing the extraordinary energy and the wide variety of remarkable talents of the youth, and to learn from them in terms of both skills and their unique ways of making sense of the world. “I have been fortunate to be able to build friendships with most of my postgraduate students, and these friendships often survive long after the students have graduated,” says Prof Van Vuuren. “I developed my teaching and supervision style over many years via a process of trial-and-error rather than by flashes of inspiration. I think the most effective thing that I can do to engage with students is to be unreservedly honest with them, to respect them genuinely, and to develop a sincere interest in them as whole persons as opposed to just students.”

During his time at Stellenbosch University, Prof Van Vuuren has made a remarkable impact on his students as well as the industry. This award is an indication of the remarkable educators walking the corridors of The Faculty. “This award is proof that quality and conscientiousness do not go unseen in higher education. Prof Van Vuuren’s holistic approach towards teaching showcases that lives can be enriched during a student’s academic venture. It only takes hard work, passion, and a vision – traits that all lecturers should strive to enthuse in their students.” – Dr Nel.

Photograph: Prof Jan van Vuuren.