August 21, 2018

Dr. Chunlei Liu Honored with Presidential Excellence Award for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

VALDOSTA — Dr. Chunlei Liu is the recipient of Valdosta State University’s 2018 Presidential Excellence Award for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL).

The Presidential Excellence Award for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning recognizes a faculty member who produces innovative scholarly work on the science of teaching and learning and regularly contributes new questions and knowledge on the subject. Liu, a professor of computer science, was chosen for his consistent efforts to practice and encourage lifelong learning; conduct research to constantly improve his teaching skills and VSU’s Department of Computer Science; and share his findings with colleagues in the field. 

“I feel it’s a big recognition, not only for me but also for the entire department,” said Liu, who joined VSU in 2005. “I just want to make VSU a better place and offer a high quality computer science program for the students to learn in and a prestigious computer science department for the faculty to teach in.”

Liu’s SoTL research began in 2009 when the Computer Science Program (now the Department of Computer Science) decided to pursue accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), which provides assurance that a collegiate program meets standards essential to producing graduates ready to enter science, technology, engineering, and math fields. As the ABET accreditation coordinator and chairman of the Computer Science Program Committee, Liu worked with his colleagues to assess the entire teaching and learning process of the Computer Science Program, identify outdated content, and develop strategies for improvement.

Liu was instrumental throughout the accreditation process, designing the assessment plan for the Computer Science Program from scratch. He also developed several timesaving programs and tools for Computer Science faculty to help them collect course data and complete course assessments.

Liu and his colleagues also surveyed alumni and local employers to see how prepared computer science graduates were for the workforce and how the Department of Computer Science could improve.

After five years of intensive data collection, analysis, and improvement, ABET’s evaluation team visited VSU and found “no deficiencies, no weaknesses, and no concerns” with VSU’s Computer Science Program. The overwhelmingly positive review resulted in the program receiving six years of accreditation, the longest accreditation period possible.

“(This result) is rare for programs undergoing assessment for the first time,” said Dr. Krishnendu Roy, head of the Department of Computer Science. “This was in large part due to great work by Dr. Liu. Because of his work, our student learning has measurably improved across the board.”

The accreditation brought a surge of enrollment to the program, leading to the establishment of the independent Department of Computer Science in July 2016.

Liu said he makes lifelong learning a priority to ensure computer science students receive a current education.

“Computer science is a fascinating, ever-changing, and challenging field that has dramatically changed our work and life, and its knowledge updates and outdates rapidly,” he said. “Except for some fundamental principles, over 90 percent of the knowledge I learned in my graduate school 20 years ago is now outdated. We have to learn fresh materials, up-to-date methods, and novel techniques to keep up with developments in the field.”

As a result, Liu has implemented several changes in his department to further engage and equip computer science students. He created two business courses as well as two online courses for the Department of Computer Science, allowing more options for student learning and ensuring students possess foundational business concepts when they graduate.

Liu requires students in his upper-level courses to research the newest technologies and inventions in hardware development or e-commerce. He also introduced hardware demonstrations and experiments in his classes, which enhance students’ understanding of the subject matter. He regularly encourages students to participate in undergraduate research and has acted as faculty adviser for 20 undergraduate research papers.

Liu has also made significant efforts to improve VSU as a whole. He has written several computer programs and scripts to make it easier for the VSU community to access and use the vast collection of technological resources the university offers. He also worked with the Division of Information Technology to build database and web servers for the sake of computer science research.

Liu has always been eager to share his SoTL knowledge, teaching experience, digital tools and resources, and assessment methods with fellow educators. He has written 92 professional publications, 23 of which focus on SoTL. He has presented his innovations in teaching and learning at regional, state, national, and international conferences.

Liu became a faculty scholar for VSU’s IDEA (Innovative Design for Enhancing the Academy) Center, now the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), in 2016 and has since conducted more than 20 workshops and teaching circles. He also worked with fellow Georgia educators to create a statewide community of high school and university computer science teachers, which allowed participants to discuss best practices for the field. 

“Clearly, Dr. Liu embodies everything that this award category was designed to applaud in a faculty member,” said Dr. Connie Richards, former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences who retired at the end of the 2017-2018 academic year.

Liu holds a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in computational mathematics and applied software from Wuhan University in China, as well as a Doctor of Philosophy in computer and information science from Ohio State University. Before joining VSU, he held positions at Troy University, Lucent Technologies Bell Labs, Ohio State University, and Wuhan University. 

“I owe a big thank you to all my colleagues in the Department of Computer Science,” he said. “Without their support, without their contribution, none of my research would exist.” 

Each year, VSU continues its tradition of honoring faculty excellence with five awards recognizing the diverse talents and contributions of its innovative and active faculty. Awards are given for excellence in teaching, research, service, online teaching, and scholarship of teaching and learning. The 2018-2019 recipients were publicly recognized at the fall convocation and received a monetary prize of $1,000.

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