By Leigh Thomas | May 12, 2020
Mike Matthews of the College of Engineering and Computing has received the Michael J. Mungo Graduate Teaching Award. The award recognizes Matthews’ long-standing commitment to the college’s graduate students during their time at the university and beyond.
Matthews’ commitment to the graduate program at UofSC spans recruitment, funding and mentoring as well as classroom teaching. In recent years he has focused on course development and programmatic aspects of the graduate curriculum. His new courses emphasize professional development, particularly in helping new graduate students build their knowledge of research literature for their projects and use a critical thinking approach to guide the writing of their research papers.
He said, “I’ve developed a framework for students that uses a consistent approach for how to research and write. It helps build their information literacy skills and think critically about their own research projects. Ultimately the goal is for their research to be published, adding valuable knowledge for society.”
Another area of emphasis for Matthews is recruitment, particularly with regard to minority students. His contributions include starting UofSC’s Bridge to Doctorate program in conjunction with Claudia Benitez-Nelson of the UofSC College of Arts and Sciences. This program is funded through a million-dollar grant from the National Science Foundation and helps support 12 highly qualified minority students pursuing doctorates in STEM fields. Matthews describes the grant as the first of its kind in the state, with expectations to renew the grant and create a sustainable program.
Matthews also serves as campus representative for the National GEM Consortium, which accepts applications from top-ranked but underrepresented students in STEM fields and matches their skills to the technical needs of member companies. GEM provides funding for selected students’ graduate study and offers experience that makes them more marketable and competitive upon graduation. As a result of Matthews’ work with the consortium, UofSC has been home to several GEM fellows.
Ultimately, Matthews says he is trying to improve the university’s environment for graduate students by offering broad skills that are beneficial to students of any field. He said, “The university gives three undergraduate teaching awards and one for graduate teaching. We have nearly 7,000 graduate students and a lot of great teachers. I’m really proud of this award and what we are doing to make our programs more attractive for top-ranked students.”
The Michael J. Mungo Undergraduate and Graduate Teaching Awards are awarded to innovative professors committed to good teaching. Recipients are selected annually from the University of South Carolina Columbia campus faculty.
Matthews is the associate dean for research and graduate programs for the College of Engineering and Computing. He has implemented courses that use a formal education model to train graduate students in critical reading, information literacy, publishing and preparing for the post-graduate school workplace. He also mentors candidates for national graduate scholarships.